WASHINGTON (AP) – Two U.N.-based Iraqi diplomats were ordered yesterday to leave the country, and officials said the United States asked 60 countries to expel Iraqis who officials say are undercover officers who may be poised to attack American interests overseas.
The government has identified 300 Iraqis in the 60 countries whom officials want expelled, the U.S. officials said. Some are operating as diplomats out of Iraqi embassies, the officials said, adding that the foreign governments are expected to comply with the U.S. request.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker confirmed the expulsion request but offered no information on the number of countries or their identities, or on how many suspected Iraqi agents are involved.
Reeker said the action has no bearing on possible U.S. military action against Iraq.
The government officials, asking not to be identified, said the State Department made similar requests of foreign governments before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The current request comes as a U.S.-led war against Iraq appears increasingly likely. U.S. officials and outside analysts have warned that an attack on Iraq could well trigger attacks on U.S. interests by Iraq or its allies.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday the real risk lies in failure to act against Saddam.
In that event, he said, there would be a world “where Saddam and the likes of Saddam are emboldened to acquire and wield weapons of mass destruction.
In New York, Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri said the two Iraqis being expelled men were informed of the expulsion order Tuesday at 6 p.m. EST and given 72 hours to leave the United States.
The State Department identified them as Nazih Abdul Latif Rahman and Yehia Naeem Suaoud.
“The two attaches were engaged in activities outside the scope of their official function.