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Syrian Diplomat Leaves Apartment After Expulsion Threat

June 12, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ A Syrian diplomat given an ultimatum to vacate a London family’s apartment or be expelled from Britain moved out Tuesday, three days before the deadline.

The Foreign Office issued the ultimatum after the apartment owners, John and Suzanne Chaffey, wrote to Queen Elizabeth II and told her of three years of homelessness and a costly and unsuccessful battle to get their property back.

Workers hauled the possessions of diplomat Ahmed Walid Rajab out of the West Kensington apartment he rented on a six-month lease in May 1982 and then refused to leave, claiming diplomatic immunity to avoid eviction.

Rajab was not seen, but his 17-year-old daughter, Rula, told reporters waiting with the Chaffeys outside the three-bedroom apartment that her family was ″very angry ... we have been made out as villains.″

She said her father’s attorney told him the six-month lease ″was automatically renewed.″

The Chaffeys, accompanied by their attorney, entered the apartment Tuesday night after the last of the Rajab’s belongings was removed and driven off to an undisclosed destination.

Chaffey, a builder, had rented the furnished apartment to Rajab for 100 pounds ($126) a week and he and his wife and two children then left on a six- month trip to the United States.

Rajab refused to leave when the Chaffeys returned, and the case reached court last year after Chaffey briefly occupied the apartment while Rajab was on a trip to Syria in the fall of 1983.

Rajab had Chaffey evicted and sued him for damages, accusing him of illegal entry and trying to remove furniture.

Chaffey, 50, said he was seeking legal advice to revoke a court settlement last November in which he agreed to pay Rajab 8,500 pounds ($10,700) to leave.

In return, Rajab promised to vacate the apartment by Feb. 28, but did not do so.

The Foreign Office said it summoned Syria’s ambassador on May 31 - after Mrs. Chaffey wrote to the queen - and said that unless Rajab left the apartment by June 14 he would be expelled from Britain.

Chaffey told reporters at his apartment Tuesday night, ″I will not be happy until this man and his family are out of this country.″