Iraq expels group of Western diplomats


AMMAN, Jordan -- Iraq ordered yesterday the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats and military attaches from 11 Western European countries as it warned the nations allied against it in the Persian Gulf, "Let everybody understand that this battle is going to become the mother and father of all battles."

It also restricted the movements of diplomats remaining there in an action that appeared to be retaliation for similar diplomatic moves by Western European countries earlier this week.

The expulsions came a few hours after Iraq issued a warning that seemed to accept all-out war as inevitable.

A statement read on state television in the name of President Saddam Hussein said, "There is not a single chance for any retreat, for any retreat from waging the battle according to principles of honor and deep faith and determination to achieve victory."

The statement continued, "The next battle will be the battle of liberating the whole of humanity and liberating Jerusalem, and will be an honor to all Iraqis."

Iraqi officials have issued increasingly apocalyptic statements as the United Nations Security Council has debated extending sanctions to include an air blockade against Iraq, and as Arab mediation efforts led by Jordan have stalled.

Iraq's expulsion of diplomats is expected to apply to the 11 European Community states with embassies in Baghdad. It was extended to include the military attache of Egypt, the first Arab country to send troops to Saudi Arabia after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned European ambassadors Thursday night and notified them that military attaches and other military officers at their embassies would have seven days to leave the country, diplomats said. The order will affect at least 18 people.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry in Paris condemned the action as an escalation of tensions, while in London a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said

that retaliation had been expected.

At the State Department, U.S. officials announced the expulsion of three Iraqi diplomats, including the military attache, in retaliation for the expulsion of the three U.S. diplomats.

In another development, Saudi Arabia pressured Jordan, one of Iraq's few allies, to change its pro-Iraq policies by cutting off oil shipments needed to run Jordan's shaky economy. Jordan was depending on Saudi Arabia to provide oil to replace supplies coming from Iraq and Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia stopped oil deliveries at midnight Thursday and blamed the cutoff on Jordan's failure to pay $48 million for earlier shipments, diplomats said. But the diplomats said they were convinced that Saudi Arabia also wanted to show its displeasure at Jordan's failure to break with Mr. Hussein.

Jordan has maintained limited commercial links with Iraq, its largest trading partner, in violation of the U.N. sanctions designed to bring Iraq's economy to a halt. According to Jordan's minister of finance, Jordan depended on Iraq and Kuwait for about 90 percent of its oil and refined products and continues to buy some of its oil from Iraq.

It is not clear how much oil Saudi Arabia was supplying, but Saudi officials had pledged to meet Jordan's needs to encourage Jordan to observe the U.N. sanctions.

Iraq has supplied oil and refined products at an artificially low price as part of its repayment of about $310 million in debts to Jordan. If Jordan paid normal market prices, Jordanian officials say, energy costs would increase by about $215 million a year.

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