AL chief calls anew for release of Egyptian diplomat

Arab League (AL) chief Amr Moussa on Wednesday called anew for the release of abducted Egyptian diplomat Ihab el-Sharif, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported.

Moussa was quoted as saying that there was an Arab intention to keep in touch with Iraqis, but the abduction and an attack on Hassan al-Ansari, head of the Bahraini diplomatic mission in Iraq, would negatively affect such consistency.

Al-Ansari sustained slight injuries as a result of the attack which took place Tuesday when gunmen opened fire at his car in the Iraqi capital.

"We are aware that the situation in Iraq is serious," Moussa said.

He said that he contacted Egyptian and Bahraini officials to get acquainted with the latest developments pertaining attacks on diplomats in Iraq.

As for whether he would pay a visit to Iraq, he said that no date has been set for such a visit.

On Tuesday, Moussa urged the prompt release of Sharif, saying the Arab diplomatic presence in Baghdad was meant to boost Arab solidarity with the entire Iraqi people.

He warned that such hostile acts against Arab diplomats in Iraq served only the goals of those who would like to see Iraq's relations with Arab countries severed.

Sharif was kidnapped by a group of gunmen on Saturday near the Egyptian consulate in al-Rabie Street in western Baghdad.

An audiotape purportedly attributed to al-Qaida leader and the most wanted man in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed on Tuesday that his group had kidnapped the Egyptian ambassador to Iraq.

The al-Qaida wing in Iraq said in a statement posted on the Internet on Wednesday that it will kill Sharif for being an apostate.

Last month, Egypt became the first Arab country to respond to a US call for upgrading diplomatic missions in Baghdad.

Up to 49 countries have now different grades of diplomatic representations in Iraq, including 18 Arab and Muslim countries, according to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

Source: Xinhua

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