RP CANCELS DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY OF IRAQ EMBASSY STAFFManila, April 13, 2003 -- The Philippines has withdrawn diplomatic privileges and immunity from the Iraqi embassy staff still in the country and ordered its foreign affairs officials to cease all contact with them,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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