March 15 , 2003

Malaysian Embassy In Iraq Closed In View Of Imminent War

IPOH, March 15 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Embassy in Iraq has been closed and its operations have been moved to Jordan in view of the threat of war, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Saturday.
All staff of the embassy, their family members and Malaysian nationals in Iraq had been moved to Jordan and would remain there until further notice, he told reporters here.
However two Malaysian students had refused to leave Iraq and were still there, Syed Hamid said after opening a forum on human rights based on the Islamic perspective here.
"They want to remain in Iraq and their parents have agreed to their remaining in that country. We cannot force our people to leave Baghdad," he said.
All but eight embassy staff and their family members were evacuated from Baghdad early last month. The Foreign Minister did not say when the remaining eight left Iraq for Jordan.
Syed Hamid also said preparations were being made to evacuate Malaysian nationals particularly students from countries neighbouring Iraq in the event war broke out.
He said the Foreign Ministry and the Malaysian embassies in those countries were closely monitoring the situation.
"We have to watch developments every second, every minute and every hour and the decisions being made on Iraq, particularly the on-going efforts of France, Germany and China who want to avoid war," he said.
Syed Hamid said even though various efforts had been made to avoid war, there were clear signs that the United States would go it alone.
He said Malaysia as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) would continue with its efforts till the end to urge the United States and its partners not to go ahead with the war plans.
He said if the United States continued with its plans to attack Iraq without UN Security Council endorsement, the integrity and credibility of the UN would be challenged and the confidence of member nations in the world body would be destroyed.
He said Malaysia was worried as the war would give rise to death and destruction of property and an exodus of war refugees.
"People will run from the war...we must prepare to face this situation."  The Malaysian Government was taking steps to ensure that no irresponsible group took advantage of the war in Iraq to create chaos in this country, he added.
"We fear that pictures from the war zone over the media will create an impression that the war is against Islamic countries," he said. -- BERNAMA