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Top Egyptian Diplomat Kidnapped In Baghdad

An Iraqi policeman guards the Egyptian embassy in Baghdad 3 July 2005 -- Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq has been kidnapped in Baghdad just weeks after arriving in the war-torn country.

Egyptian diplomats are speaking about the kidnapping on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. They say Ihab al-Sharif was abducted near his home yesterday. Al-Sherif had not yet formally presented his credentials to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Yahia Said, a researcher on Iraq at the London School of Economics, says it's not surprising if the Egyptian diplomat has really been kidnapped.

"Egypt is leading [and] is encouraging Arab states to open legations in Baghdad. [The country] is encouraging other Arab states to open embassies in Baghdad and send ambassadors and that sort of would constitute a formal recognition of the new Iraq," Said said.

Said says the motives of the kidnappers are clear. They aim to stop Arab and Muslim neighbors from following the Egyptian example.

However, the analyst says it is still impossible to say which of many insurgent groups has kidnapped the diplomat or even to know if the kidnappers are Iraqi nationals.

"Many of the insurgents are Muslim Arabs coming from other Arab states and in a way they are fighting the battle in Iraq
that they would like to fight at home, with their own governments. They are opposed to their own governments and I
suspect whoever kidnapped the Egyptian [envoy] could very well be Egyptians themselves," Said said.

Said also says it is wrong to think that the majority of those kidnapped in Iraq are Westerners.

"There are [also] Turkish drivers and Jordanian drivers and people working in support functions. They have attacked scores
of people from Arab and Muslim states," Said said.

Said says insurgent groups differ in their ideology and probably more nationalistic groups try to refrain from attacking Arabs and Muslims, but target coalition forces and Westerners instead.

Today, in another development, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a visit to Iraq. He said that he chose the
weekend of the 4 July holiday to show support for U.S. troops and Iraq's government. The United States' top law enforcement attorney said that the U.S. government is "doing a lot" to promote democracy and the rule of law.

Gonzales is scheduled to meet with U.S. soldiers, Justice Department officials working in Iraq, and legal officials in the Iraqi government.


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