Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Iranians expelled

The United States expelled two security guards at Iran’s mission to the United Nations for photographing and videotaping “sensitive” sites in New York City, the State Department said yesterday.

“They had been observed by the FBI videotaping various locations in New York deemed to be sensitive,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters. “On a number of occasions we have informed the Iranian mission to the U.N. about our concern for this kind of activity.”

Mr. Ereli said the Iranian guards left the country over the weekend. This is the third time the State Department has expelled Iranian guards, who have no diplomatic immunity, he added.

Although Mr. Ereli would not identify the sites, other officials said they included bridges, the Statue of Liberty and the New York subway.

“We were very concerned because these activities are incompatible with the stated purpose of their duties,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

Photographing or videotaping in public places violates no law, but a U.S. official said some of the sites were not “tourist attractions” and there was no obvious reason to take pictures of them, our State Department correspondent Nicholas Kralev reports.

In Tehran, a Foreign Ministry official said the U.S. action “runs against international conventions on providing facilities for staff of foreign missions at international organizations and lacks political judgment and moral value.”

The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations.

Prepared for war

Saudi Arabia is prepared for “total war” against terrorists if they ignore the kingdom’s appeal for them to turn themselves in to authorities by July 23, said Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

“We have drawn a line in the sand and offered a last chance for those who wish to repent. We are prepared for total war, and those who do not surrender face certain death,” he said, after one of Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted militants accepted the offer of leniency this week.

Osman al-Amri, who surrendered Monday, was the second accused terrorist to give up since Crown Prince Abdullah announced the limited amnesty last week.

Al-Amri was No. 19 on a list of 26 most-wanted Saudi terror suspects. Saaban al-Shihri, another accused militant, turned himself in last week. He was not on the most-wanted list.

Prince Abdullah said the “door for forgiveness” is open to those who “deviated from the right path and committed crimes in the name of religion to spread corruption on Earth.” Although they may not face government prosecution, the families of their victims can demand that they be tried.

Argentina complains

Argentina yesterday accused a top U.S. diplomat of interfering in the country’s domestic politics.

Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa said Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, was the unnamed source in Argentine newspaper articles who criticized the government because of labor unrest.

“In all honesty, the Argentine government is fed up with Mr. Noriega’s meddling in Argentina’s international affairs,” Mr. Bielsa told a local radio station in Buenos Aires.

Mr. Noriega could not be reached for comment, but the State Department insisted there are no problems in U.S.-Argentine relations.

“The United States and Argentina have a positive and constructive bilateral relationship that covers all aspects of our mutual interests, from trade to investment to regional and multilateral cooperation,” a spokesman said.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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