RP EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD COULD BE BOMBED -- U.S.

Manila, April 10, 2003 -- The United States embassy in Manila warned the 
Philippine government yesterday to brace for possible bomb attacks on 
foreign embassies in Iraq by coalition forces.

The warning came in the wake of reports that Iraqi soldiers are seeking 
refuge in diplomatic missions in Baghdad and that they are using the posts 
as storage areas for weapons of mass destruction.

A diplomatic source said the US Embassy made a strong warning to the 
Philippine government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) 
regarding the situation in Baghdad.

The source noted all foreign diplomatic posts in the Iraqi capital are 
vulnerable amid the intense fighting between the US-led coalition troops 
and soldiers loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Philippine diplomatic posts in Iraq are located in Masbah, Mansoor and 
Jadiriya in Baghdad. The Philippine Embassy is located in the upscale 
Jadiriya district  a few meters away from Baghdad University, where 
chemical and biological weapons are believed to be hidden. It is also close 
to the Palestine Hotel housing foreign journalists covering the war.

A Spanish broadcaster for television station Telecinco and a Reuters 
cameraman were killed after the hotel came under fire from US troops Tuesday.

US Central Command in Qatar said a US tank fired a single round at the 
hotel after soldiers were attacked from the building with grenades and 
small-arms fire. Journalists denied that there were any snipers in the 
hotel at the time.

Although the Philippine Embassy was vacated by its staff, headed by charge 
d'affaires Grace Escalante after hostilities commenced, equipment and 
records were left behind by foreign service personnel.

US-led coalition forces have entered Baghdad, but they are fighting fierce 
resistance put up by the elite Iraqi Republican Guard.

Asked to comment on the US warning, a senior DFA official said the 
Philippines could ask for a public apology and compensation from the US in 
the event the diplomatic mission in Baghdad is "mistakenly" bombed by 
coalition forces.

"We could always do what China did when it asked for a public apology and 
compensation for the damage" wrought to the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, 
Yugoslavia after US forces bombed it in the 1990s because they used the 
"wrong" maps, the DFA official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Much as the Philippines wants to be on the "safer" side of the conflict in 
the Persian Gulf, neither the US nor Britain can guarantee that diplomatic 
missions of foreign governments supporting the coalition strike on Iraq 
will be spared in the battle to oust Saddam from power and take control of 
Baghdad. (By Pia Lee-Brago, Star )

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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