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Leave Australia, Iraq Envoy Told

March 09, 2003|From Reuters

SYDNEY, Australia — The government has ordered an Iraqi diplomat who it believes is a spy to leave Australia by Wednesday, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Saturday.

"We have reason to believe that he's associated with the Iraqi intelligence agency, and he is assessed by our agency as an Iraqi intelligence officer. His activities are incompatible with his status of a diplomat," Downer told reporters in Adelaide.

Iraq's charge d'affaires in Australia denied that the Canberra-based attache, Helal Ibrahim Aaref, was a spy.

He said Australia had not produced any evidence to back up its claim.

"I am deeply hurt, shocked and surprised. We are their guests, but to say he's a spy, no, it's unacceptable for us," Saad Samarai said. "It is a judgment -- it is a decision without any evidence."

Samarai said Aaref, who is in his 40s, would leave the country within the next couple of days.

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