Iraq pledges to protect diplomats after U.S. embassy shutdown threat

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Iraq will protect foreign mission buildings and ensure only the state has weapons, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told 25 top diplomats on Wednesday, after Washington warned it could shut down its Baghdad embassy.

The United States has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.

“Iraq is keen on enforcing the rule of law, the state’s monopoly on having weapons, protecting foreign missions, and diplomatic buildings,” Kadhimi told a meeting of 25 ambassadors and Charges d’Affaires, his office said in a statement.

“Those who carry out attacks on foreign missions are seeking to destabilise Iraq and sabotage its regional and international relations,” he said.

Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified U.S. diplomatic compound.

In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition. One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.

On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.

“These attacks do not target foreign missions alone, but have hurt innocent citizens, including children,” Kadhimi said.

Washington blames such attacks on Iranian-backed militia groups. Iran has not directly commented on the incidents but groups believed to be connected to Iran-aligned militias have claimed responsibility for some attacks.

“We expressed our deep concern at the rise in the number and sophistication of attacks against diplomatic premises in Iraq,” the 25 diplomats said in a joint statement.

“We welcome the actions that Prime Minister Kadhimi and his government have taken to address these concerns.”

The U.S. ambassador was at Wednesday’s meeting, the joint statement showed.

Reuters

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