By Ray Fleming THERE are more important things to worry about in Iraq than Ahmed Chalabi's future. None the less it is difficult to overlook yesterday's news that King Abdullah of Jordan is willing to pardon Mr Chalabi who was sentenced by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison in 1989 for fraud after the bank he was running in Jordan had collapsed with 300 million US dollars missing. Mr Chalabi never served the sentence because he was tried in absentia having fled Jordan as his bank collapsed. Chalabi is now a deputy prime minister in the Iraqi government and it would clearly have been embarrassing between neighbours if someone in that position was still wanted for fraud; the importance of settling the matter was underlined when the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, personally undertook the task of obtaining a pardon. Ahmed Chalabi is a survivor of a kind peculiar to the Middle East. After his bank defaulted he made his way to the United States where he founded the Iraq National Congress, an emigre organisation funded by the CIA, and later gained influence with the neoconservatives who were persuading the Republican Party that removing Saddam Hussein would be a priority when it won the White House. Mr Chalabi told the neoconservatives what they wanted to hear, namely that the Iraqi people would welcome an invading force. He himself arrived in Baghdad a few days after the US military had taken control there and clearly expected to be put in charge of whatever interim government was created. Matters did not work out that way and by August last year he was being accused by the Americans of leaking intelligence to the Iranians. Somehow he allied himself with the victorious United Iraq Alliance in last January's elections and is now deputy prime minister. Given his track record, that is unlikely to be the summit of his ambition. But should a pardon wipe the slate clean so easily? Why does Ahmed Chalabi have such influence?