Expatica news

Staff to stay in Iraq despite embassy attack

2 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Despite the rocket attack on the Dutch embassy in Iraq on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused to withdraw diplomatic staff as MPs demand to know who was responsible for the attack.

Two of the embassy’s four staff members are still in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, while the other two are presently in the Jordan capital Amman. The foreign ministry said on Monday that the diplomatic staff can continue to work as per normal.

Meanwhile, an embassy employee has said that he and his colleagues evacuated the building — located in the centre of Baghdad — an hour before the rocket attack. He said the embassy was tipped off prior to the attack.

And due to the fact the attack was pre-announced, MPs believe it is possible to determine who was responsible and government coalition parties the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD have demanded answers. But the foreign ministry said it will not speculate on rumours.

The embassy was attacked on Friday night (Dutch time) with several rocket grenades, but because of the tip-off no one was in the building at the time and no injuries were reported, newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported.

One of the rockets scored a direct hit on the embassy, but a resulting fire was quickly extinguished. Three other projectiles missed their target and did not explode — one flew over the embassy roof and two others landed in the garden.

Three embassy rooms were badly damaged in the 30 January attack and the building has not yet been reopened. Staff will temporarily resume work in a location, but the precise address is not yet known, news agency ANP said.

Political responses to the attack have seen CDA MP Camiel Eurlings suggest the Cabinet must take appropriate measures if it is proven that a campaign against the Netherlands was behind the rocket attack.

Liberal VVD Geert Wilders demanded that the embassy be relocated to the heavily-secured “green zone” in Baghdad, where the US headquarters is also based. If relocation is not possible, Wilders proposed that the Netherlands reconsider sending more diplomatic staff to Iraq.

Wilders also raised concerns about the safety of about 1,100 marines stationed in the south of Iraq on peacekeeping duties, an NOS news report said.

The marines are part of the SFIR stabilisation force in Iraq, but the Defence Ministry said there is no cause to heighten security. It said the security situation in the patrol region is “very calm”.

The military union AFMP has also said that it is unnecessary to consider the withdrawal of troops from Iraq: “The attack was not directed against them and they are based far away.” But if a similar incident occurs, the union said politicians will need to re-evaluate the situation.

An MP with main opposition party Labour PvdA, Bert Koenders, also said that the nation knew the risks when it decided to deploy troops in war-torn Iraq. He also said it was too early to speculate on possible consequences from the attack, an opinion shared by Democrat D66 government MP Bert Bakker.

The Netherlands gave political, but not military support to the US-led war against Iraq last year and recently extended the nation’s peacekeeping mission by an extra six months.

The Dutch troops are patrolling a thinly-populated desert province in the south of Iraq and most of the 70 commandos deployed late last year in response to heightened security concerns have since returned. They found no trace of terrorist activities in the Dutch patrol region.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004] 

Subject: Dutch news