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March 20, 2003
 
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U.S. Urges Expulsion of Iraqi Diplomats
Bush Administration Urging Expulsion of Iraqi Diplomats Worldwide

The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON March 20

In an unusual diplomatic move, the Bush administration called Thursday for the expulsion of Iraqi diplomats by all countries that recognize and deal with the government in Baghdad.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the diplomats represented a "corrupt and ruthless regime" and cited Iraq's refusal to disarm.

Also on Thursday, the State Department temporarily closed embassies and consulates in about 15 countries. The decision was based on a judgment of the security situation in those countries by the senior American diplomats there.

Two weeks ago, the United States asked more than 60 countries to expel several hundred Iraqi diplomats the Central Intelligence Agency identified as suspected intelligence agents.

In the new request, made overnight, the United States also asked countries to try to prevent the destruction of Iraqi documents in Iraqi embassies and consulates and to freeze Iraq's bank accounts so the money could be used by a successor, postwar government.

As for the diplomats themselves, Boucher said they might be able to find their way back to Iraq or could apply for asylum.

After the United States lodged its earlier allegation of espionage by Iraqi diplomats, two low-level attaches at the Iraqi mission to the United Nations were ordered expelled. Australia accused a diplomat of spying and expelled him.

In Thursday's request, the State Department set no deadline for the expulsions, and it was not clear whether other countries would agree to the request.

Boucher described the requested expulsions as temporary, saying a new government would be installed after the war and would choose new envoys.

Countries where U.S. diplomatic outposts were shuttered Thursday included Israel, Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Pakistan, Syria and Norway. The U.S. Embassy in Paris reduced its services mostly to handling visas, as did the U.S. Embassy in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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