The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Diplomats left in twilight zone

Some are defiant, some are burning documents and others are just watching events in Iraq on their television sets. But all of Iraq’s diplomats know they are in a twilight zone, formally representing a regime that no longer exists.

In Tokyo and Brasilia, Iraqi diplomats have been seen taking out bags of shredded documents, or setting fire to papers. But one Iraqi diplomat in Brazil, Abdu Saif, the ambassador’s secretary, said: “It’s all lies. We are only burning rubbish and recently cut grass.”

Asahi, a Japanese daily, quoted one unnamed Iraqi diplomat as expressing pleasure that Saddam Hussein had gone. “Saddam betrayed us and ran away. Had he surrendered immediately, many civilians wouldn’t have died.”

In Tehran, Iraqi exiles stormed the Iraqi embassy, tearing down pictures of the fallen dictator. Reflecting the mixed feelings of a substantial number of Iraqis over the war, they chanted both “Death to Saddam” and “Death to America”.

The protesters hung up pictures of their champion, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, the leader of the main Iraqi Shia opposition group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Many embassies claimed to be operating “business as usual”, but in several missions diplomats said they had not received orders from Baghdad for days or even weeks.

A spokesman for the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm was unsure about the future: “If they want us to stay, we stay. If they want us to go home, we go home. We are Iraqi. We do our job.”

A few Iraqi embassies around the world were still putting up sporadic resistance. The charge d’affaires in Bangladesh, Adnan Hatab said: “Unless there is any impediment, we will issue visas to those Bangladeshis willing to go to Iraq to fight against the aggressors.”

The ambassador to Vietnam, Salah al-Mukhtar, who took up his post only three weeks ago, said he would slap the face of any American, British or Australian diplomat he came across.

In Beijing, the Iraqi ambassador told a Hong Kong cable television station that the war was not lost. “Any nation may lose one battle, but losing the war is something else,” said Mowaffaq Alani.

The US, meanwhile, has renewed its call for countries around the world to close Iraqi embassies. “The leaders of these missions no longer should be allowed to pretend to represent the people of Iraq,” said Richard Boucher, the state department spokesman.

“Therefore, the missions should be closed, the assets should be frozen so that they can’t abscond with the assets that rightfully belong to the Iraqi people.”

The best known of Iraq’s envoys, Muhammad al-Douri, who defended Baghdad’s case during the months of diplomatic battles at the United Nations, was the first to concede that “the game is over” and was expected to leave New York yesterday.

Earlier in the week al-Douri, a former law lecturer, denied that he was seeking political asylum.

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