U.S. diplomat leaves embassy in Baghdad

January 13, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The chief U.S. diplomat vacated the embassy in Baghdad yesterday and flew out with envoys from eight other countries.

Charge d'affaires Joseph C. Wilson said that he was sad to leave and that he hoped to come back.

"No matter how bad the relationship is [with Iraq], we will eventually want to rebuild it," he said.

He left on an Iraqi Airways chartered Boeing 727, bound for Frankfurt. Mr. Wilson said he carried a U.S. flag that had flown over the embassy on Aug. 2 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. He would give it to the president "when I see him, hopefully in a few days."

The embassy offered space on the plane to other Americans and to other diplomats.

Embassy officials said there are more than 100 Americans -- not counting journalists -- still in Iraq. Most have dual citizenship, and many are married to Iraqis.

In the months following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the embassy worked to free U.S. hostages and evacuate more than 2,500 Americans from Iraq and Kuwait.

"Any Americans left are here by their own choice," said Mr. Wilson. "I think our embassy has every reason to be proud of the effort it made to evacuate Kuwait and Iraq."

The embassy is not being closed, although the main building was locked after Mr. Wilson's departure. About 90 Iraqi members of the embassy staff will continue to be paid and will keep an eye on U.S. interests from their homes, officials said. A yellowish, blocky building festooned with security cameras and barbed wire, the embassy was guarded after the departure yesterday by Iraqi soldiers and two Iraqi watchmen on the embassy staff.

The regular peace demonstration took place in front of the building at noon. Those who scheduled it apparently were unaware that the chants would be made to an empty house.

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