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Philippines Expels Iraqi Diplomat - 2003-02-12


The Philippine foreign secretary has asked Baghdad to recall an Iraqi diplomat suspected of having ties to a Muslim terrorist group in the Philippines.

Foreign Secretary Blas Ople told Baghdad on Wednesday to repatriate diplomat Husham Hussein.

Mr. Ople says Mr. Hussein "is not considered desirable by the Philippine government."

The foreign secretary on Monday said intelligence reports indicated Mr. Hussein was in contact with an alleged Abu Sayyaf rebel shortly after a bomb attack in the southern Philippines killed two civilians and a U.S. soldier in October.

"The Secretary of Foreign Affairs Blas Ople called in the charge d'affaires of Iraq this afternoon and handed him a note that he withdraws the accreditation of the second secretary of the Iraqi embassy, Mr. Husham Hussein," explained Victoriano Lecaros, a spokesman for Mr. Ople. "He [Mr. Ople] mentioned two days ago that this particular diplomat has been linked to Abu Sayyaf."

The foreign secretary told Baghdad it had 48 hours to act on the request.

The Iraqi charge d'affaires, Samir Bolus, denied the allegation.

"We haven't done something which is wrong, and we don't expect any kind of harassment," he said.

Manila had earlier warned Mr. Hussein to halt "actions inconsistent with his diplomatic status." Last week he was accused of abusing his diplomatic privileges after joining a rally protesting a possible U.S. strike on Iraq.

The Abu Sayyaf rebel group is fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines. It has been blamed for several deadly terror attacks, kidnappings, extortion and murders in the past.

The group is on the U.S. list of terror organizations and is suspected of having ties to the international al-Qaida terror network. U.S. forces have been training Philippine soldiers in special tactics to fight terrorist activity.

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