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Iraq’s U.N. Envoy Disavows Regime Ties

April 10, 2003

After weeks of swaggering rhetoric, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador has made an abrupt about-face, claiming he has ``no relationship″ with Saddam Hussein and ``no communication″ with the regime.

How did Mohammed Al-Douri know the game was up?

``I watch the television just like you,″ he told reporters Wednesday outside his New York City residence _ before reportedly fleeing to Paris.

From Brasilia to Bangkok, Iraqi diplomats were abandoning ship, apparently fearful they would be implicated in the evils of Saddam’s dying regime.

In Tokyo, Iraqi diplomats hauled garbage bags stuffed with shredded documents out of the embassy. Neighbors whispered that the amount of trash was three times the usual level.

After televised images showed Saddam’s statue come tumbling down in Baghdad, Iraqi diplomats in Brazil carried box after box of papers out of their embassy _ and set them on fire.

In Thailand, diplomats were hedging bets _ resigned to going home if expelled but willing to stick around if a new Iraqi regime wants to hire them.

``There is no clear picture. The collapse happened so quickly,″ embassy first secretary Talal Waleed Waleed said, repeatedly referring to Saddam’s regime as ``the former government.″

Waleed said events back home were taking their toll on his family.

``My wife is crying nonstop,″ he said.

In New York, al-Douri _ the man who recently mocked the coalition for expecting to be welcomed in Iraq by ``hugs″ and ``flowers″ _ said with a shrug: ``The game is over.″

``My work now is peace,″ Al-Douri said. ``I hope the peace will prevail. I hope the Iraqi people will have a happy life.″

Officials in Iraq’s embassy in Brazil initially denied police reports that documents were being destroyed.

``It’s all lies,″ said Abdu Saif, secretary to Iraqi Ambassador Jarallah Alobaidy. ``We are only burning garbage and recently cut grass.″

But a second call, answered by an unidentified employee, produced the message ``I’m not working now″ and a quick hang-up.

In Sweden, a spokesman for the Iraqi embassy appeared unsure whether their operation would remain open _ and if it did, who might be giving the orders.

``We don’t know anything,″ spokesman Jamal Abdulrazak told The Associated Press. ``All we know is what we see on television. We are just officials. We have not received orders from the ex-government or a new government.″

Abdulrazak was one of three Iraqi diplomats left in Sweden; last month, Swedish officials banished two others for allegedly spying on Iraqi exiles. The embassy in Stockholm is Iraq’s only diplomatic outpost in the Nordic and Baltic countries.

``If they want us to stay, we stay,″ Abdulrazak said. ``If they want us to go home, we go home. We are Iraqi. We do our job.″

Confusion reigned in Iraq’s embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Ambassador Kazim Abdul Hameed al-Ravi had not shown up for work by midday and the embassy visa section appeared closed.

In Moscow, reporters tried unsuccessfully to contact Iraq’s ambassador about a report that Saddam had taken refuge at the Russian Embassy in Baghdad. It was left to Russia’s foreign minister to deny the report.

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