Yemen granted asylum to Iraq's ambassador to Egypt on Sunday, top Foreign Ministry officials said, while Spain ordered seven Iraqi embassy officials to leave the country.
Mohsen Khalil, Iraq's ambassador to Yemen between 1991-96 and to Egypt since 1999, applied to Yemen's consulate in Cairo on Wednesday for asylum, the officials said on condition of anonymity. He was expected to arrive within a day.
Yemen's decision to host Khalil follows reports he requested asylum from two Arab countries — Yemen and Syria — as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime began collapsing under the U.S.-led military onslaught on Iraq. Phone calls to the Iraqi Embassy in the Egyptian capital went unanswered, and Khalil was unreachable for comment.
Khalil, in his 50s, has also been serving as Iraq's representative to the Cairo-based headquarters of the Arab League, was Saddam's press secretary during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and was chief editor of an Iraqi daily in 1990.
In Madrid, the decision to declare seven Iraqi embassy officials 'persona non grata' was conveyed Sunday to the Iraqi charge d'affaires, Abdelaziz Hussein, according to a ministry spokesman, customarily not identified. Hussein was not among the seven and the embassy will remain open, the spokesman said.
The seven must leave within 72 hours. No reason for the expulsion was given.
Spain's national news agency Efe suggested the expulsion may have been related to a report in the daily ABC on Sunday that Hussein had recently informed the ministry that a considerable number of revolvers and shotguns as well as ammunition had been stored secretly in the embassy.
The Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Al-Douri, left New York this week for the Syrian capital, Damascus, though he did not officially resign from his post at the world body. It was not immediately clear when or whether he would return to Iraq.
After weeks of swaggering rhetoric, Al-Douri made an abrupt about-face earlier this week, claiming he has "no relationship" with Saddam and "no communication" with the regime.
From Brasilia to Bangkok, Iraqi diplomats have abandoned ship, apparently fearful they will be implicated in the evils of Saddam's dying regime.
"I haven't had contact with Baghdad for two or three weeks," Muaead Hussain, the Iraqi charge d'affaires in Berlin, said through the locked iron gate of his embassy Thursday. "I have no idea what's going on there."
Hussain insisted he still represented Saddam's government. But asked whether he might switch allegiance, he said: "Why not? I am serving my country."
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