RP CANCELS DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY OF IRAQ EMBASSY STAFF

Manila, April 13, 2003 -- The Philippines has withdrawn diplomatic 
privileges and immunity from the Iraqi embassy staff still in the country 
and ordered its foreign affairs officials to cease all contact with them, a 
source said.

The source within the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Iraqis "will 
not be invited to official or diplomatic functions," and their diplomatic 
identification cards and car plates will not be renewed.

However Foreign Secretary Blas Ople has also said that the Iraqi embassy 
staff will not be deported due to the unstable situation in their home 
country.

"If we deport them now, they might be slaughtered by an angry mob back in 
Iraq," the source said.

Manila is also ready to freeze the funds of the embassy so they can be 
turned over to the new diplomats that may be sent over by any new 
government in Iraq, the source added. The embassy has about $100,000 banked 
in the Philippines.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Ople said that the Iraqi diplomats here are 
"in a sort of limbo in the sense that a question may be asked as to what 
government they represent," following the apparent downfall of the regime 
of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

However he said the Philippines would continue to provide security to the 
Iraqi embassy and its personnel.

The Philippines was one of the staunchest Asian supporters of the US-led 
attack on Iraq.

In February and March, the Philippines expelled three Iraqi diplomats for 
alleged espionage and for supposedly having contacts Muslim separatists.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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