- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

From combined dispatches
SYDNEY, Australia The Australian government has ordered an Iraqi diplomat it believes is an active intelligence officer to leave the country by Wednesday, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.
"We have reason to believe that he's associated with the Iraqi intelligence agency, and he is assessed by our agency as an Iraqi intelligence officer. His activities are incompatible with his status of a diplomat," Mr. Downer told reporters in Adelaide.
Iraq's charge d'affaires in Australia flatly denied the Canberra-based attache, Helal Ibrahim Aaref, was a spy. He said the Australian government had not produced any evidence to back up its claim.
"I am deeply hurt, shocked and surprised. We are their guests but to say he's a spy, no, it's unacceptable for us," Saad al-Samarai told Reuters news agency.
Mr. Samarai said Mr. Aaref, in his 40s, would leave the country within the next couple of days.
Australia is a staunch ally of the U.S. hard-line on Iraq and has sent 2,000 troops to join a U.S. and British military buildup in the Persian Gulf, although Prime Minister John Howard said no decision has been made to commit the troops to war without United Nations support.
The government said it was taking action against the diplomat, who arrived in Australia late last year, based on information from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization spy agency.
U.S. officials say Washington has identified 300 Iraqis in 60 countries some operating as diplomats whom it wants expelled, arguing they could attack U.S. interests.
Iraq yesterday denounced the U.S. request, calling it "a frantic campaign" by the CIA. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that all its diplomats abide by the laws of the countries they visit.
On Wednesday, the United States ordered two U.N.-based Iraqi diplomats to leave the country. The State Department said they were "engaged in activities outside the scope of their official function."
On Friday, the German Foreign Ministry confirmed that Washington has asked Germany to expel suspected Iraqi agents and that Berlin was considering the request.
The ministry declined to detail the number or identity of the Iraqis involved but told the Associated Press there were six Iraqi diplomats in Germany. Germany has opposed military action against Baghdad. Sweden also has reported receiving a similar request from Washington.
Also on Friday, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase confirmed that Iraqi diplomats in his country, which is hosting several thousand U.S. troops, were under secret service observation, but he denied he had ordered the surveillance under pressure from the United States.
"Our secret services are attentively surveying the movements of personnel from the Iraqi Embassy in Bucharest, and in certain cases, there have been problems," he told journalists in Stockholm.

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