Iraq's Ahmad Chalabi, Leading Voice behind 2003 War, Dies

In this Wednesday, May 5, 2010 file photo, Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Accountability and Justice Committee speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)
In this Wednesday, May 5, 2010 file photo, Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Accountability and Justice Committee speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)

BAGHDAD -- Ahmad Chalabi, a prominent Iraqi politician and leading advocate of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, has died of a heart attack, Iraqi state TV reported Tuesday.

The report said he died in Baghdad but did not provide further details on the circumstances of his death. He was 71.

Chalabi, a secular Shiite politician who lived in exile for decades, was a leading proponent of the invasion to topple Saddam and provided false information indicating that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He had close ties to many in the Bush administration, who viewed him as a favorite to lead Iraq after the 2003 intervention.

However, he had a falling out with the Pentagon following the invasion, and was largely sidelined by other Iraqi leaders, many with close ties to neighboring Iran. Chalabi had been serving as the chairman of parliament's finance committee, and was previously a deputy prime minister.

The first deputy speaker of parliament, Sheik Humam Hamoudi, lamented Chalabi's death as a "big loss" to Iraq, calling him "an example of perseverance and dedication."

"Our national and political arena has lost a prominent figure who dedicated his life to serve the country," he added in a statement.

Shiite lawmaker Muwaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's former national security adviser, described Chalabi as a "great politician" who "played by the rules."

"It is a very bad day for Iraq," al-Rubaie told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "He was one of the most seasoned and pioneering politicians. Chalabi worked for a democratic, liberal Iraq," he added. "I am glad he died peacefully."

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Associated Press writers Vivian Salama in Baghdad and Joseph Krauss in Cairo contributed to this report.

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