Iraq asks US Congressman to leave over ‘repay’ remark


Iraqi authorities asked a United States congressman to leave the country after he called for Baghdad to repay part of the money spent by Washington since the 2003 invasion, a spokesman said on Saturday.

Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher’s remarks at a news conference in Baghdad stood in stark contrast to those by senior American officials, who have pressed Iraqi officials to decide soon whether they want US troops to stay beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline.

“We called the US embassy yesterday and we told them to ask the congressmen to leave Iraq,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP. “We don't want them here. What they said was inappropriate.”

Mr. Dabbagh said that Mr. Rohrabacher and his congressional delegation had not raised the issue in a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, contradicting the US politician’s comments that he had spoken about potential repayments with the Iraqi leader.

It was not immediately clear if Representative Rohrabacher and the delegation were still in the country when the request was made.

“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country... we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years,” Mr. Rohrabacher told journalists at the US embassy on Monday.

Mr. Rohrabacher, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, declined to give specifics on how much should be repaid, or over how long.

US embassy spokesman David Ranz said that while the mission “has a responsibility to host congressional visitors,” the views of the politicians “do not necessarily express the views of the US administration or even a majority of the Congress.”

He declined to comment on Mr. Dabbagh’s remarks.

Around 45,000 American troops are still in Iraq, mostly tasked with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts.

All US troops must withdraw from the country by the end of the year, under the terms of a security pact, but US officials have been pressing Baghdad to decide quickly whether or not it wants an extension.

Mr. Dabbagh said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would lead a meeting of the country’s political leaders “very soon” to deal with “issues related to the American withdrawal from Iraq.”

Mr. Rohrabacher was leading a bipartisan US congressional delegation on a visit to Iraq, primarily to look into a raid by Iraqi security forces in April on the Ashraf camp housing thousands of exiled Iranians in which at least 35 camp residents died.