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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Iraqi diplomats left in limbo
Mohammed al-Douri leaving New York residence
Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Al-Douri, due to meet Kofi Annan
Iraqi diplomats around the world have suddenly found themselves in a state of limbo after the dramatic collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime on Wednesday.

Some officials maintained it was business as usual, but a number appeared confused about what they should do next.

Staff in two embassies were reported to have been seen shredding and burning documents, and the Moscow office failed to give its daily press briefing for the first time.

But reports that Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Mohammed al-Douri, was fleeing New York for Europe were confounded when it emerged he was meeting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday afternoon.

I haven't had contact with Baghdad for two or three weeks. I have no idea what's going on there
Muaead Hussain, Iraqi charge d'affaires in Berlin
Mr al-Douri was the first Iraqi government official to admit coalition forces had overwhelmed his country's resistance following the dramatic scenes in Baghdad on Wednesday.

What next?

Earlier, he had said he had been unable to contact any government officials "for a long time". "I have no communication with Iraq," he said.

The Iraqi charge d'affaires in Berlin, Muaead Hussain, said the same: "I haven't had contact with Baghdad for two or three weeks. I have no idea what's going on there".

He insisted he still represented Saddam's government but, when asked if he might switch allegiance, said: "Why not? I am serving my country."

Statue of Saddam Hussein torn down in Baghdad
Statue of Saddam Hussein toppled after US marines enter Baghdad

One Iraqi diplomat based in Amman, Jordan, said he hoped to hear from Baghdad by Friday or Saturday "in order to decide what to do. Each one will decide for himself. I for one plan on going back to Iraq in a week".

Diplomats in both Austria and Kenya admitted they were calm but clueless about who was in charge.

"We are waiting," one official in Nairobi was reported to have said. "We do not have any information, we are just seeing the television."

Documents

According to the AFP news agency, 20 bags of shredded paper were waiting to be picked up outside the mission in Tokyo, Japan.

And in the Brazilian capital, Iraqi diplomats were seen burning documents in the embassy grounds.

It is up to Iraq and the incoming authorities to decide what to do about sending new representatives
Patrick Herman, Belgian Foreign Ministry

But several embassies - including those in Belgrade, Prague, Budapest and Athens - said they were functioning normally and gave no other comment.

A spokesman for the Belgian foreign ministry, Patrick Herman, said: "It is up to Iraq and the incoming authorities to decide what to do about sending new representatives" adding that those decisions could be made within days.




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