- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan, March 23 (UPI) — Jordan said it has expelled five Iraqi diplomats from the capital, Amman on Sunday, on "security grounds," insisting it had nothing to do with the U.S. request of some states to ask Iraqi diplomats to leave their countries.

Information Minister Mohammad Edwan said the five had "violated their diplomatic duties, so we asked them to leave."

A source at the Iraqi Embassy in Amman confirmed that the five, whom he did not name, had left Jordan upon the request of the Jordanian government.

He said Baghdad "respects the decision of Amman," although he denied that the diplomats were involved in "activities that threaten Jordan's security," as officials privately accused them of doing.

Edwan told United Press International Sunday that the United States did not ask his government to expel the diplomats, "nor do we expect them to do so. This has absolutely nothing to do with the U.S. or any other country."

On Friday, anonymous Iraqi diplomats called on the Jordanian public to gather in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Jebel Amman to protest the U.S.-British war launched on their country early Thursday.

The authorities in recent days have forcibly broken up spontaneous street protests across the country and warned against rallying without prior written permission from the government.

Activists said a number of opposition leaders, including Islamists and leftists, have been arrested for allegedly calling for anti-U.S. demonstrations without official permission.

The Iraqi expulsion could ignite further public anger against the government, which the opposition has accused of succumbing to Washington's pressure by repressing the opposition and allowing U.S. troops in eastern Jordan close to the Iraq border.

The government has insisted that "several hundred" troops were in the country to operate three anti-missile batteries provided by the United States to "protect its skies."

It has repeatedly denied that U.S. or British forces would be allowed to launch attacks against its eastern neighbor from Jordanian territory.

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