GMA EXPELS 2 IRAQI DIPLOMATS

Manila, March 25, 2003 -- President Arroyo approved yesterday the expulsion
of two Iraqis  a diplomat and a staffer at the Iraqi embassy in Manila  who
have been accused of espionage.

The expulsions came a month after Manila kicked out an Iraqi diplomat
linked to an Abu Sayyaf bomb attack in Zamboanga City last Oct. 2 that
killed a US soldier and three Filipinos.

In an interview with reporters, Mrs. Arroyo said Foreign Affairs Secretary
Blas Ople recommended the expulsion of first secretary Abdul Karim Shwaik
and attaché Karim Nassir Hamid, who were told to leave within 72 hours.

Asked if her administration is acceding to a US request seeking the
expulsion of all Iraqi diplomats and the withdrawal of Manila's recognition
of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government, Mrs. Arroyo said: "No, no.
But we're doing it by individual (basis)."

"I arrived at this decision after consulting with Philippine defense,
security and intelligence agencies. I am convinced that these two diplomats
have engaged in activities that are contrary to their status as diplomats.
I have withdrawn their accreditation and expect them to leave within the
time I have given them," Ople said in a statement. He did not elaborate.

"Under international and diplomatic law, a host state need not give any
reason for withdrawing the accreditation of a diplomat and in asking him to
leave."

However, at a press conference later yesterday, Ople said the two were seen
"taking photographs of the American military cemetery in the Philippines on
the eve of the memorial service scheduled last December."

"When they saw that they were being tailed by members of the Philippine
National Police, they changed their taxis several times to evade
surveillance," he said.

Meanwhile, local intelligence sources alleged that Shwaik and Hamid
organized and funded some anti-American street protests in Manila.

Several local protest leaders have been seen visiting the Iraqi embassy and
leaving with "fat" envelopes suspected to contain money, a senior
intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ople yesterday summoned Iraqi chargé d'affaires Samir Bolus and handed him
a note verbale informing him of the expulsions.

"The decision to expel these diplomats is one that was made based on our
determination and in the context of our national interests," Ople said.

On Feb. 12, Husham Hussain, second secretary of the Iraqi embassy, was
expelled for allegedly consorting with the Abu Sayyaf and communist rebels.

According to Ople, a "highly-detailed" Philippine intelligence report
alleged that Hussain had telephone contact with an Abu Sayyaf guerrilla in
October last year hours after the Zamboanga blast that killed an American
Green Beret and three Filipinos. Another US soldier was wounded in the
attack. It was not known if Hussain played a role in the attack.

Both Manila and Washington have earlier linked the Abu Sayyaf to the
al-Qaeda network of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. The group styles
itself as a rebel group fighting for an independent Muslim state in
Mindanao but its activities are mostly kidnapping-for-ransom.

The intelligence report also alleged that Hussain met with "some front
organizations" of the National Democratic Front (NDF) at the Iraqi embassy.

The NDF is the political wing of the Community Party of the Philippines.
The US considers the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA) as
terrorist organizations.

The Iraqi embassy denied the allegations. (Star)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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