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
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
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
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