- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Spain said yesterday it will withdraw most of its diplomatic staff from Baghdad in the face of continuing violence, including mortar attacks that wounded three persons last night in the heavily guarded district surrounding the coalition’s civilian and military headquarters.

Two other coalition partners — Bulgaria and the Netherlands — already have cut back on staff in the capital, as have humanitarian agencies including the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Poland, one of the staunchest allies, pledged not to pull out of Iraq but said some of its diplomats might be moved from the capital to an area in southern Iraq that is under the control of Polish troops.

The risks unnerving foreign governments and private relief organizations were driven home last night by ear-shattering explosions in the heavily guarded section of Baghdad where the civilian authority headed by L. Paul Bremer has its headquarters.

Iraqi police said two mortar rounds landed in the area, one of which sent coalition staffers running into the hallways of the coalition headquarters, located in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Cassella said three persons were wounded in the attacks but it was not clear whether they were military or civilian.

Three mortar rounds exploded in the same 2-square-mile area known as the Green Zone late Monday, but officials said there was no damage or casualties.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said yesterday her country — one of the strongest supporters of the invasion with 1,300 soldiers now in Iraq — will withdraw 25 of its 29 diplomats from Baghdad. Most will be relocated to Amman, Jordan.

“We have taken staff out of Baghdad temporarily, given that it is a very complicated moment,” Mrs. Palacio said in Berlin. Spaniards working for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority will stay, the Spanish Defense Ministry said without giving their number.

A senior Polish official, meanwhile, told Polish television that his nation’s diplomats would remain in Iraq but not necessarily in Baghdad.

“There is no possibility at the moment of increasing our presence. I would be thinking of transferring part of our embassy to put it under the protection of our troops,” said Marek Belka, the diplomat charged with economic questions in the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Mr. Bremer.

Poland has been given responsibility for one southern area of Iraq and commands a multinational force of 9,000 soldiers, including the 1,300 Spaniards.

Concern about the ability of coalition forces to protect even their own headquarters area has been acute since an Oct. 26 missile barrage against the Al Rasheed Hotel, where many coalition and U.S. military officials lived. One U.S. colonel was killed, and 18 persons were wounded in that attack.

Bulgaria and the Netherlands already have moved their diplomats to Jordan, citing security concerns.

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