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Iraq Says It Still Has Qatari Money Sent To Free Ruling Family Members

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi

(Reuters) - Iraq still has hundreds of millions of dollars sent by Qatar to secure the release in April of members of the Qatari ruling family abducted in 2015, Iraq's prime minister said on Sunday.

Press reports had suggested some of the money had ended up in Iran, angering Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab neighbours of Qatar and contributing to their decision to severe ties with Doha.

However, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in comments broadcast on state TV on Sunday that the money was in the central bank in Baghdad, pending a decision on what to do with it.

"Not one dollar, or euro (...) was spent; they are still in their crates, supervised by a committee, and two representatives of the Qatari government came to check when they were deposited under the trusteeship of the central bank," he said.

The decision on how to dispose of the money "has a political aspect and has a legal aspect, it will be taken in conformity with Iraqi law," he said, without elaborating.

The prime minister said in April authorities had seized suitcases containing hundreds of millions of dollars on a private Qatari jet that landed in Baghdad. He suggested the funds were part of a deal to free the Qatari hostages without Baghdad's approval.

The 26 hostages, including members of Qatar's ruling royal family, were abducted during a hunting trip in southern Iraq in 2015. It is unclear how their release was negotiated.

No one claimed responsibility for the abductions, which took place near a Saudi border area dominated by Shi'ite militias close to Iran.