American Dies in Iraq of Apparent Heart Attack
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An unidentified American being held in Iraq has died, the State Department said today, quoting Iraqi authorities. The American was reported to be a man in his mid-50s who died of a heart attack.
The department also disclosed that Iraq plans to expel an unspecified number of Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in response to the U.S. decision on Monday to order 36 Iraqi envoys out of the United States by Thursday.
In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was told that unspecified restrictions will be placed on embassy funds, department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, said Iraq’s troop strength in and near Kuwait has increased to 265,000 soldiers. ″There’s been a general trend in the past several days of these numbers increasing,″ spokesman Pete Williams said.
The Pentagon also estimated the total costs of the Desert Shield operation through the end of September at $2.5 billion, nearly double the previous estimate of $1.3 billion. Williams said the sharply increased costs can be attributed to the expense of calling up reserve and National Guard forces, increased operations for ships and aircraft and to increased fuel costs.
As for the dead American, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said he died in the Iraqi city of Basra and that his body would be turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The State Department, in a statement released this morning, said it could not confirm the cause of death or the identity of the American.
Later, Ms. Tutwiler said the death ″underscores the barbaric nature of Iraqi policy towards foreign nationals in Iraq and Kuwait, and makes a lie of Iraq’s claim that they are all well treated and in no danger.″
She said nine Americans have been taken into custody by Iraqi authorities since Monday, bringing the total to 70 - 48 in Iraq and 22 in Kuwait. She said reports have been received that more Americans have escaped from the two countries but she had no further details.
In Baghdad, the press attache at the U.S. Embassy, Stephen Thibeault, said that according to the Iraqis an American had died in Basra, a southern port in Iraq. He said the 56-year-old man apparently died of a heart attack, and was believed one of those who had been detained by the Iraqis.
Thibeault, in a telephone interview from Baghdad, said there was no positive identification on the American ″because we have not been given access to the American citizen yet. The Iraqi authorities have said that they would allow us to participate in any autopsy.″
CNN said the man was one of the 63 Americans being held hostage as ″human shields″ against any U.S. attack. It quoted U.S. charge d’affaires Joseph Wilson as saying the man had been taken from Kuwait to a strategic site in Basra. Meanwhile, 36 Iraqi envoys face a Thursday deadline to leave the country, targets of what the State Department calls a measured response to almost a month of ″blatant″ Iraqi misbehavior.
A U.S. diplomatic message was delivered to Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Al- Mashat on Monday afternoon, serving notice that the affected diplomats must be gone within 72 hours.
The move was in retaliation for a series of Iraqi actions, especially the ″illegal order″ for the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, Ms. Tutwiler said.
The department also restricted the remaining Iraqi diplomats here to a radius of 25 miles from the Iraqi Embassy in Washington. It said all Iraqi diplomatic visas will be switched to single entry from multiple entry.
Procedures for approving visa applications from private Iraqi citizens also will be tightened.
The 19 Iraqi diplomats permitted to remain in the United States, including Al-Mashat, reflect the number of Americans accredited to the U.S. embassies in Iraq and Kuwait.
At a news conference at his Maine vacation home, President Bush said the United States was ″trying to keep a reasonable parallel in terms of numbers.″
Ms. Tutwiler said the ″measured″ steps were being taken in response to the ″blatant disregard″ Iraq has shown for international law, in particular the moves against the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
Al-Mashat said outside the embassay that the expulsion order was ″unfair and unjustified.″
″We feel we have been victimized once more,″ he said.
Among the Iraqis expelled are seven accredited diplomats, including all those who deal with commercial affairs. Those diplomats became expendable after Bush suspended all commercial transactions with Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq had ordered all embassies in Kuwait to shut down by last Friday, but the United States and a number of other countries have defied the order.
Since then, Iraqi authorities have cut off water and electricity at the U.S. Embassy and are restricting all personnel to the embassy grounds.
Ms. Tutwiler said the reduced U.S. embassy staff in Kuwait has enough food and water only to last several more days. Power is being supplied by a generator.
The United States has refused to close its embassy in Kuwait because it does not want to lend legitimacy to Iraq’s conquest and subsequent annexation of Kuwait.