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1991: Britain expels Iraqi diplomats

The Foreign Office has expelled eight Iraqi embassy officials from the UK following threats of attacks on Western targets.

The seven diplomats and one security guard were ordered to leave on the grounds that their presence was "not conducive to the public good".

The Iraqi Government has condemned the expulsions and says it reserves the right to retaliate.

At Heathrow airport, one of the expelled officials, Naiel Hassan, warned: "If Iraq is attacked then targets in the West will be demolished and all Arabs living abroad will be prepared to take such action."

24 hours to leave

A Foreign Office spokesperson then said that such comments served to justify the expulsions.

Mr Hassan, formerly the Iraqi press counsellor in London, maintained that he and his colleagues were treated in "a very unjust and unfair way" and that the deportations were "part of the psychological war against Iraq".

The embassy officials were given 24 hours to leave and arrived at Heathrow an hour before the expulsion deadline of 9.00 am. Their families were given a week's notice, but some wives and children were at the airport ready to leave today.

The Iraqi ambassador, Dr Azmi Shafiq Al-Salihi, supervised his officials' departure for Baghdad. He will remain at the embassy in London with more than 30 staff.

As the crisis in the Gulf worsens, Iraq has advised embassies in Baghdad to scale down their operations. On Tuesday the British embassy there reduced its staff from 24 to a skeleton of six.

A further 67 Iraqis, mainly students, have been given six days to leave the UK. They are seen as a potential threat to national security.

In Context
This was the largest number of expulsions since Iraq invaded Kuwait four months earlier. At the time 6,000 Iraqis were living in Britain.

The UN had demanded that Iraqi troops leave Kuwait by January 15. In an attempt to gain more time and prevent Europe and the United States forming an allied coalition against Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, met the US Secretary of State, James Baker, and EU representatives in separate talks on the 9 and 10 January respectively.

Saddam Hussein ignored the 15 January deadline and on the night of 16 January, Operation Desert Storm began.

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