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US Asks Other Nations to Shut Down Iraqi Embassies - 2003-03-21


The United States, in a rare diplomatic move, is asking governments around the world to expel Iraqi ambassadors and shut down that country's embassies and consulates until a post-war interim authority takes over in Baghdad and names replacement diplomats.

The Bush administration earlier this month asked more than 60 countries to expel Iraqi diplomats suspected to be intelligence agents. And now with war underway, it is asking governments to shut down Iraqi embassies altogether until Saddam Hussein is ousted and an interim authority is in place in Baghdad.

Confirmation of the U.S. move came from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, who says Iraq's defiance of U.N. disarmament resolutions left the United States and its allies with "no option" but to disarm the country by force, and as he put it, to "bring freedom to the Iraqi people."

Mr. Boucher said the United States is asking that Iraqi ambassadors and other chiefs of mission be expelled from the various countries hosting them and that other Iraqi officials have their diplomatic status revoked.

He said operations at Iraqi missions should be temporarily suspended and their property and assets frozen to prevent theft or embezzlement by their current staffs.

"Our expectation is that once an interim Iraqi authority is in place, it will name interim replacement representatives and diplomatic missions can reopen and truly represent the interests of the Iraqi people, rather than represent a corrupt and ruthless regime," said Mr. Boucher. "We've also requested that these countries take every possible step to respect and protect Iraqi diplomatic property and prevent the destruction of mission records, and to assure that in-country bank accounts belonging to the Iraqi government are frozen."

Mr. Boucher said cables asking U.S. diplomats to make the request to host governments went out from Washington after President Bush announced the start of the war with Iraq late Wednesday.

He said that in addition to seeking the closure of the embassies, the United States is proposing that third-countries be named to look after the consular affairs of Iraqi citizens until the missions can be reopened.

The spokesman declined to discuss reaction to the U.S. overture, but said there was some precedent for the requested closure, citing the suspension of Taleban-appointed ambassadors when that government was ousted from Kabul in late 2001.