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Diplomat Promises to Quit Apartment After Queen Intervenes

June 10, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ A Syrian diplomat said Monday he would leave an apartment he rented three years ago on a six-month lease. His promise came after Queen Elizabeth II intervened and the Foreign Office threatened to expel him from Britain.

Ahmed Walid Rajab had claimed diplomatic immunity in his refusal to move. A brief statement issued Monday by his London attorneys said: ″Mr. Rajab has said he will leave the flat (apartment) by Friday of this week.″

The Foreign Office had said it would ″request the withdrawal″ of Rajab from Britain unless he reached a financial settlement with the family that owns the apartment by Friday or left the apartment. He is a counselor for Arab League affairs.

Builder John Chaffey and his wife, Suzanne, returned from a business trip to the United States when Rajab’s lease expired, but were unable to get him out. After nearly three years, Mrs. Chaffey finally wrote to the queen appealing for help and London newspapers got wind of it over the weekend.

Rajab stayed in the 85,000-pound ($107,000) apartment in London’s west Kensington district, continuing to pay the 100-pound ($126) weekly rent, through a law suit and appeals by the Chaffeys to government officials and members of Parliament.

He even got the Chaffeys and their two children evicted when they briefly reoccupied the apartment while he was on a trip home in the fall of 1983.

The Foreign Office statement said, ″We have left the ambassador (Syrian ambassador Loutof Allah Haydar) in no doubt that we will insist on Mr. Rajab’s departure (from Britain) if the matter has not been solved satisfactorily by June 14.″

A spokesman maintained that the Foreign Office had been ″actively involved in trying to resolve the dispute from the beginning.″

Mrs. Chaffey said, however, that ″things have really been moving since the queen’s intervention″ with the Foreign Office.

The case got to court last fall when Rajab sued Chaffey for $12,600 in damages for reoccupying the apartment, accusing him of illegal entry and trying to remove furniture.

In court, Chaffey and Rajab compromised. Chaffey, who had spent $11,300 in legal costs, agreed to pay Rajab $10,700 to leave, and Rajab said he would go by Feb. 28. He did not do so.

The Chaffeys and their children have been living separately, scattered in the homes of various firends.

Rajab’s is the first reported case of a diplomat claiming immunity to keep an apartment in London. Diplomatic immunity is granted to all envoys under the Vienna Convention, and 110,000 parking fines incurred in London by diplomats went unpaid last year.