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Chalabi Denies Passing Faulty Pre-War Information on Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Wednesday with Iraq's controversial Deputy Prime Minister . Mr. Chalabi is denying charges he provided U.S. officials with faulty information about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs.

Mr. Chalabi is meeting senior Bush administration officials amid a background of controversy in Washington over his role prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Democratic lawmakers say they would like Mr. Chalabi to answer charges that, as an Iraqi exile figure prior to the war, he provided U.S. officials with inflated or outright false information about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs that prompted the decision to invade.

In a talk with reporters after the half-hour meeting with Secretary Rice, Mr. Chalabi flatly denied he was responsible for providing false intelligence, while brushing aside another question about his pre-war role, saying the focus should be on the situation in Iraq now.

"It's always more important to look to the future than to the past. I would say to you that Iraq is a country of 27 million people, in the middle of difficult times. We have overthrown a dictatorship after 35 years. The country is in a dire situation. We need to improve the quality of life of the Iraqi people and establish Iraq in the community of nations, and this is our main focus in Iraq at this time," he said.

Secretary Rice did not appear with Mr. Chalabi after the meeting, nor was there a photo session at the start of their talks, which is routine for such an occasion.

But Mr. Chalabi insisted that he is getting a warm reception from administration officials, and said his meeting with Ms. Rice focused on the Iraqi political process, Iraq's relations with Syria and Iran, and ways to protect the country's energy infrastructure.

The deputy prime minister, who was accused last year of passing U.S. intelligence information to Iran, visited Tehran and met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before traveling to Washington.

The Iraqi Shiite politician said he spoke to the Iranians about their interference in Iraqi domestic politics. In his comments to reporters here, Mr. Chalabi said Iraq needs to have transparent relations with both its neighbors, based on non-interference in each others' affairs:

"We are neighbors. We need to have good relations with our neighbors in a transparent way, and we need to have respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other. And we need to also not intervene in the internal affairs of each other. I think this is also a position that the United States understands," he said.

Mr. Chalabi said efforts must be made to get Syria to stop supporting what he termed terrorist incursions into Iraq. He said this must by done by engaging the Syrians in dialogue, but only after authorities in Damascus are seen to be taking steps to halt the infiltrations.

Mr. Chalabi, who is on an eight-day U.S. visit, is to meet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld next Monday and also have talks with other members of the Bush cabinet.