PALACE DENIES IRAQI EMBASSY SECUITY PULLOUT

Manila, Feb. 7, 2003 -- Malacañang reassured the Iraqi Embassy in Manila yesterday that security provided by the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not be pulled out, even as Iraqi diplomats have been actively involved in anti-war rallies here.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye belied reports that the PNP security contingent at the Iraqi Embassy has been pulled out.

Both officials denied the supposed retaliation by the Philippine government against Iraqi charge d’ affaires Samir-a-Masih Bolous, who complained about the position taken by President Arroyo in support of the United States’ demand for Iraq to disarm its alleged weapons of mass destruction.

"It is our responsibility to give protection to all embassies," Golez said, adding that the "position of the government is to secure all embassies."

Bunye, however, strongly took exception to complaints made by Bolous against the perceived pro-US stance of the President on the US-Iraq conflict.

"The President has come out with a statement and the statement is not inconsistent with what she has said before. As a matter of fact, the President is appealing to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who has the power to prevent war," he said.

Bunye reassured Bolous that the Philippine government will not take it against him if he joins anti-war rallies here.

"That is to be expected, but this will not prevent us from issuing the official stand of the Philippines on the matter," he said.

However, Bunye admitted that unlike American ambassador to Manila Francis Ricciardone, who met several times with Mrs. Arroyo, Bolous will have to content himself to have an audience with the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), headed by Secretary Blas Ople.

"The door of the DFA is always open to all representatives of friendly countries here," he said. (Star)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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