WASHINGTON, July 24, 2003�-The top Iraqi diplomat in China is criticizing Beijing for failing to expel the former Iraqi ambassador, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. The former envoy, Mowaffaq Mahmoud Alani, and his wife have armed themselves, holed up inside the embassy, and refused to move despite orders to return to Baghdad.

"[Mowaffaq Mahmoud Alani] is almost a diplomat, because a diplomat should not behave this way,� Talal Al-Khudairi said in an interview with RFA�s Mandarin service on Thursday. "A diplomat is not a gangster. When you mix a diplomat with a gangster, his name will be Mowaffaq Alani," Al-Khudairi said. "I am in charge of the Embassy now. I am the highest ranking official of the Embassy."

Since June 6, Alani--reportedly a Saddam Hussein loyalist--has barricaded himself and his wife inside the Iraqi Embassy in Beijing, armed with pistols. He has barred other diplomats from entering the compound. Alani had been ordered by the U.S.-led occupation authorities to return to Iraq in an attempt to recall all Iraqi ambassadors back to Iraq.

Iraqi diplomats have appealed to the Chinese government to intervene, but so far the government has distanced itself from the standoff. "The Chinese authorities can do something very easy, such as picking up the phone to call him and ask him to leave. They can say to him, 'Mr. Ex-ambassador, your time is up. You have to leave now,' Al-Khudairi said. "Because [Alani] has no official identity whatsoever. He has no titles, no official status, because the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has withdrawn his passport and declared his passport and his wife�s passport null and void."

Last week, Alani told the al-Jazeera satellite television network he wouldn't step down because he didn't recognize the authority of the occupying power.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo and Kham) and Uyghur.

It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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