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US Embassy Backs Iraqi Probe Of Ex-Minister’s Escape December 22, 2006

Posted by notapundit in US News, World News.
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BAGHDAD (AP)–The U.S. Embassy said it supported an Iraqi investigation into the escape of Iraq’s former electricity minister, a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen who was jailed for corruption.

Ayham al-Samaraie fled a police station in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad with the help of a group of private security experts on Sunday, Iraqi officials said. Iraq’s Public Integrity Commission, an anti-corruption panel, said the agents were “foreigners.”

The U.S. Embassy said Thursday the agents were not affiliated with the American government.

“The U.S. government was not involved in the disappearance of former electricity minister Ayham al-Samaraie in any way,” spokesman Lou Fintor said.

“Iraqi officials are continuing to investigate Mr. al-Samaraie’s disappearance, and we are vigorously supporting their efforts,” Fintor said.

In telephone interviews earlier this week with the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, al-Samaraie said a “multinational” group helped him escape. He also sent an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times, saying, “Hi, I am OK and out of their reach.”

He did not reveal his location, but told the Times he was outside Iraq. He told the Tribune he was “now in a very safe place…They cannot touch me anymore.”

A Sunni Arab, al-Samaraie was a member of the transitional government set up after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and led by former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

He was convicted on one of 13 charges of corruption earlier this year, but the conviction was thrown out on appeal a few days before his escape. He still faces trial on the other 12 counts. The charges concern an estimated $2 billion in missing funds for contracts on rebuilding the country’s electrical infrastructure.

Al-Samaraie is also believed to have had contacts with Sunni Arab insurgents and had tried to persuade them to put down their weapons and join the political process.

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