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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June, 2005, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Iraqi embassy weapons cache found
Iraqi flag
The weapons were discovered in a previously unopened safe
A cache of weapons was found at the Iraqi embassy in London after the Baghdad regime change, it has emerged.

The new Iraqi ambassador made the discovery, along with other evidence of espionage activities, in a safe inside the building, BBC News has learned.

The embassy was abandoned by its staff in 2003 as war loomed.

A safe in the building was recently opened revealing sub-machine guns, handguns and listening devices. Police say investigations are continuing.

The Foreign Office confirmed there would be no diplomatic immunity for anyone found to have been in illegal possession of guns.

A year-and-a-half after the embassy was abandoned, new ambassador Dr Salah Al Shaikhly opened up the building for the first time.

'Despair'

Burglars had ransacked the site but were unable to open a number of safes.

Dr Al Shaikhly told BBC Radio Four's Today programme how he brought in professional safe-crackers.

Such was the regime they did not trust anybody. Everybody was spying on everybody else
Dr Al Shaikhly
Iraq ambassador

Most of the safes were empty, but one contained four machine guns, 10 handguns, four silencers and around 600 rounds of ammunition - half of which was live.

"You really despair when you have this kind of arsenal kept at the Iraq embassy," the ambassador said.

Espionage equipment including telescopic cameras and listening devices was also discovered.

Dr Al Shaikhly speculated the weapons were used for training purposes, while the previous regime probably used bugging devices to spy on their own people.

"Such was the regime they did not trust anybody. Everybody was spying on everybody else," he said.

Full co-operation

A Foreign Office spokesman said the weapons cache was a matter for the police.

He said: "Embassies do not have diplomatic immunity for this kind of thing. Of course, they make their own security arrangements, but they have to obey the gun laws of this country."

The Metropolitan Police said a number of weapons had been handed over to them, but no arrests had been made.

A spokesman said: "The current Iraqi authorities informed police of the discovery of a number of firearms found within their premises in south-west London.

"They co-operated fully with UK authorities, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a number of firearms were subsequently recovered.

"Our investigations are continuing."

The building is currently empty, but BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera says it is expected to be returned to use as Iraq's embassy.


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