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Memo: Iraqi Ambassador Was Offered Asylum in Washington

May 17, 1991

OTTAWA (AP) _ Washington offered asylum to Iraq’s former ambassador to the United States, but he refused it and instead sought refuge in Canada, according to a secret memo to the former Canadian immigration minister.

The April 12 memo on the status of Mohamed Al-Mashat was written by Terry Sheehan, executive director of operations at the Immigration Department, The Canadian Press reported Friday, saying it had received a copy of the memo.

The note was addressed to Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall, who became foreign minister in an April 21 cabinet shuffle.

″At one point, Dr. al-Mashat was offered asylum in the U.S.A. but refused the offer,″ the Canadian news agency quoted Sheehan’s memo as saying.

Canadian Press quoted sources familiar with the affair as saying the offer was made several weeks before the Jan. 17 outbreak of the Gulf War, in an attempt to embarrass Iraq. The Americans were never interested in al-Mashat as an intelligence resource, the sources were quoted as saying.

The Americans lost interest in al-Mashat after he was recalled by Baghdad on Jan. 15, Canadian Press quoted the sources as saying. He came to Canada on March 30, after spending time in Europe.

Sheehan’s memo also said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service checked al-Mashat’s background with an American counterpart and was told he was ″a very credible ambassador.″

State Department spokesman David Denny said Friday he was unaware of any request or offer of asylum for al-Mashat. On May 8, the State Department denied any involvement in the month-long Canadian immigration process.

McDougall said earlier this week that the memo was her first notification that al-Mashat had come to Canada. She made no mention of al-Mashat’s having been offered asylum in the United States.

Senior Canadian officials have said they were left in the dark about al- Mashat’s petition to immigrate to Canada until after it had already been granted. Opposition legislators have demanded an inquiry into the affair, raising questions about whether the U.S. was involved in the immigration.

Al-Mashat was recalled from Washington to Baghdad on Jan. 15 but did not return to his country, stopping in Vienna for what he said was medical treatment for his wife.

Al-Mashat filed his asylum request from Vienna, Canadian officials said.

In the parliament, Ian Waddell of the opposition New Democrat party said U.S. officials should be asked to testify at the parliamentary inquiry that the government agreed to Thursday.

″There are international questions here as well as discrepancies,″ Waddell said. ″That’s why it’s important to have American officials before the inquiry.″

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