After spending most of his life abroad, Chalabi returned to Iraq in 2003 and served in the 25-member Governing Council appointed by the American occupation authorities to run the country's day-to-day affairs.

Assassination attempts

He was a member of the next two cabinets, serving as finance minister and then as deputy prime minister, but failed to win a seat in parliament in the 2005 election.

He is now the chairman of a commission responsible for keeping Saddam loyalists out of government posts, his office said, and is believed to have escaped several assassination attempts since 2003.

Meanwhile, at least six people were killed and about 50 were injured - 19 critically - on Saturday after a suicide bomber attacked a market in Tal Afar, police and medical officials said.

The small but strategic northwestern Iraqi city has been a frequent target of suicide bombers over the past five years.

Last month, officials said 25 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Tal Afar, located about 420km northwest of Baghdad.

US officials blamed the August 8 attack on al-Qaeda in Iraq.