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Spain expels Iraqi diplomats

By Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief


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SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spain has ordered seven Iraqi officials in Madrid to leave the country by Wednesday after 21 guns and 800 rounds of ammunition were found at the Iraqi Embassy in Madrid, Spain's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

But two other Iraqi diplomats -- including the one who told Spain about the weapons cache -- will not be expelled, and the embassy will remain open, the Foreign Ministry said.

The expulsion of six Iraqi diplomats and a non-diplomatic official was ordered Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said.

The ranking diplomat at the embassy, Mohammed Abdel Aziz Hussein, told the Foreign Ministry Thursday that the embassy had six automatic pistols, eight revolvers, five shotguns, two rifles and their corresponding ammunition, a senior Foreign Ministry official told CNN.

Spanish police quickly went to the embassy to seize the weapons, the Foreign Ministry said.

That same day, the Foreign Ministry told CNN there was no immediate plan to act against the Iraqi Embassy, despite reports that coalition forces had entered Baghdad and the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had collapsed.

The existence of the Iraqi Embassy weapons was reported on Sunday by the Spanish newspaper ABC.

Hours later the Foreign Ministry summoned Abdel Aziz Hussein -- who holds the rank of charge d'affaires, just below ambassador -- to officially tell him about the expulsions.

The embassy told CNN that Abdel Aziz Hussein is not related to Saddam Hussein.

The weapons at the Iraqi Embassy may have entered Spain under diplomatic protection, which makes it difficult for the host country to inspect the contents of diplomatic luggage, another Foreign Ministry official told CNN.

This official said the two Iraqi diplomats allowed to remain in Madrid -- Abdel Aziz Hussein and the head of consular affairs -- would keep the Iraqi Embassy functioning and that "the Spanish government has no intention of closing" the embassy.

"We have not broken diplomatic ties with Iraq," the official said, pointing out that the Spanish Embassy in Baghdad remains officially open even though all of the Spanish diplomats were evacuated before the war in Iraq started.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has been one of the staunchest allies of U.S. President George W. Bush in the war on Iraq, but Spain initially did not expel any Iraqi diplomats, as the U.S. had asked a number of countries to do at the outset of the war.

The embassy in Madrid is Iraq's only diplomatic station in the country. About 700 Iraqis live in Spain.


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