- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

NEW YORK The United States has systematically denied visas to Iraqi diplomatic couriers, forcing their envoys in the United States to communicate through telephones, faxes and e-mails that are subject to electronic interception, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations says.
Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said in an interview that the denial of visas appeared to be part of a larger U.S. effort to disrupt Iraqi diplomatic communications around the world as the United States prepares for military action to disarm the government of President Saddam Hussein.
The State Department last week ordered the expulsion of two Iraqi diplomats and an Iraqi journalist based in New York and called for its allies to kick out some 300 Iraqis from a total of 60 countries whom the United States suspects of engaging in espionage.
Romania, a supporter of U.S. plans for war on Iraq, yesterday expelled five Iraqi diplomats, accusing them of "activities incompatible with their status," and Australia announced over the weekend it was tossing out an Iraqi diplomat whom it suspects of being an active intelligence officer.
The New York Times yesterday quoted officials from several countries saying they have been told by the United States that Washington was seeking to disrupt the Iraqi intelligence network before it can retaliate for an attack on Iraq.
"Yes, the war has started. Yes, this is my belief," said Mr. Aldouri, who complained during an interview at the U.N. headquarters that several members of his delegation had been approached by U.S. officials encouraging them to defect.
"Everyone on my staff has been approached to defect but me. I expect to be declared persona non grata," he said, adding that he has advised all his employees to be "prepared to be expelled."
Mr. Aldouri said the United States has been systematically disrupting normal operations of his mission since last summer.
"We cannot get visas for our couriers. As such, we can no longer send any diplomatic pouches," he said.
Therefore, he said, the Iraqi mission must communicate with Baghdad through faxes, telephones and e-mail, all of which he believes are closely monitored by the United States.
The Iraqi said his mission faced constant "communications" difficulties, including cell phones with static, faxes that do not work and telephones with connection problems.
Mr. Aldouri said he has complained to the U.N. legal counsel, to little effect.
Last week, the State Department expelled two security guards at Iraq's U.N. mission, Nazih Abul Latif Rahman and Yehia Naeem Suaoud, accusing both of spying.
"Spying? They do not even speak English. They lived in the basement of our mission. They went nowhere," Mr. Aldouri said.
The move followed the expulsion a week earlier of the Iraqi News Agency's U.N. correspondent, Mohammed Alawi, who also was accused of espionage.

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