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Iraqi Government Urges Muslim Countries to Defy Terrorists, Send Ambassadors


The Iraqi government has urged Arab and Muslim nations to defy al-Qaida insurgents in the country and send their ambassadors to Baghdad. The government's call follows the kidnapping and execution of an Egyptian envoy and attacks on other diplomats in the Iraqi capital.

In a message to Islamic countries Friday, Iraq's foreign ministry said the best way to prove their seriousness in combating terrorism and was by dispatching their ambassadors to Iraq.

The diplomatic community here was badly shaken Thursday, after the Egyptian government confirmed that its chief of mission in Baghdad, Ihab al-Sherif had been executed by the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group.

The envoy was abducted Saturday in western Baghdad by gunmen who accused him of being an American spy. A few days later on an Internet Web site, al-Qaida in Iraq said that Mr. Sherif would be killed as punishment for Egypt's good relations with the United States and Israel.

There had been speculation that Egypt was planning to become the first Arab nation to have a full-ranking ambassador in Baghdad. Mr. Sherif, who had previously been Cairo's top envoy to Israel, was widely expected to be promoted to the post.

Three days after the kidnapping of the Egyptian envoy, two other senior diplomats from Bahrain and Pakistan were attacked in the capital. Iraqi officials described the attacks as attempts by al-Qaida in Iraq to isolate the new western-backed Iraqi interim government.

Pakistan's ambassador, who escaped unhurt after his convoy came under fire, has since moved to neighboring Jordan.

Iraqi government spokesman, Laith Kubba, says he cannot confirm reports that Egypt was planning to temporarily close its mission here and recall its staff. But Mr. Kubba warned that pulling out of Iraq will only encourage terrorists to target diplomats in other countries, whose governments are on the al-Qaida hit list.

"Just imagine if you can defeat democracy through car bombs or kidnapping in one spot," he said. "These groups are going to be encouraged to chase all democratic regimes at all spots all over the world because if it works in one place, it will work again."

The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, is a Jordanian-born Sunni Muslim, who has publicly declared a holy war against Iraq's Shi'ite and Kurdish-dominated government.

Abu Musab Zarqawi's group has claimed responsibility for numerous car bombings and other attacks, which has killed hundreds of Iraqis since the government was elected in late January.

Shi'ite leaders say they believe al-Qaida head's main goal is to exploit long-held Sunni distrust of Shi'ites and Kurds and to ignite a sectarian conflict.

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