Relations with Iraq

Article excerpt

THE minister counselor who is Charge dAffaires of the Iraq Embassy in Manila, Mr. Samir Bolus, is a handsome, affable gentleman who speaks English easily, fluently. He is also the embodiment of diplomatic civility.

I summoned Minister Bolus to my office at the Department of Foreign Affairs to discuss issues in our bilateral relations. Apart from disagreements on UN Security Council Resolutions demanding that Iraq disarm of weapons of mass destruction, our relations with Iraq have remained excellent. In the recent UN General Assembly in New York, I initiated a bilateral session with the Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri. I thanked him for Iraqs support of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). I also thanked him for Iraqs declared support of our bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2004-2005. The Philippines has already been endorsed unanimously by the Asian Group in the General Assembly. Arab support will clinch the seat for us.

I also asked Minister Bolus to arrange another bilateral meeting between me and Foreign Minister Sabri at the margins of the forthcoming summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to be held in Kuala Lumpur next February 24-25.

In what turned out to be a cordial meeting, I presented Minister Bolus with a set of findings by the Philippine intelligence community involving the second secretary of the embassy, Consul Husham Z. Hussein. According to a highly detailed confidential report, Mr. Hussein had been contacted through his cellphone by some Abu Sayyaf operatives who had been blamed for the bombings in Malagutay, Zamboanga City, last October 2 which killed one US serviceman and two Filipinos. I also informed the Charge dAffaires that Mr. Hussein was highly visible in militant protest actions against the host country. These activities which are incompatible with a diplomatic status must cease immediately, otherwise the Department of Foreign Affairs may have to take sterner measures.

I also informed Minister Bolus that the Philippine embassy in Baghdad has not closed and was not closing down at all, although some non-essential personnel and embassy dependents have been moved to Amman, Jordan. I said some official accounts of the embassys closure were inaccurate and arose from a misunderstanding.

The Iraq official also assured me that contrary to some newspaper reports, the PNP security detail to his embassy had never been withdrawn or diminished by the Philippine National Police. He considers the security arrangements quite adequate. …