Iraq's UN Envoy Prepares to Leave NYC

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After pronouncing two days ago that the "game is over," Iraq's UN ambassador Mohammed Aldouri is expected to vacate his UN post and leave New York for Paris late Friday, according to diplomatic sources. On Thursday, Aldouri requested a private meeting with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. While Annan's office would not comment on the substance of the meeting, Iraqi sources tell Time that it was a "farewell" call to the UN chief. Although the diplomat won't turn in his credentials and insists his trip is simply a home leave to check on his family, nobody is expecting him to return.

In a recent interview with Time, Aldouri confided that since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March, communications with the government in Baghdad had been "spotty" at best. For the last two weeks, Aldouri admitted that there had been almost no communication with any government official in Baghdad: "I am watching the news on television, on CNN, the same as you," he explained.

The ambassador added that he has not been able to speak with his wife and son who have remained in Baghdad since late in March. Aldouri had been in Baghdad in January. It was his first visit home in over a year. In all likelihood, Aldouri, a university professor specializing in international law, will travel from Paris to Damascus. From there, he hopes to return to Baghdad to be re-united with his family.

Kuwait's UN ambassador and dean of the UN diplomatic corps Mohammad A. Abulhasan said that Aldouri really had no choice but to leave: "There was nothing left for him to do. The UN has recognized the U.S. and UK as the occupying force in Iraq. So, they will deal with Washington and London, not the Iraqi mission." But as of now, one of his deputies will take charge and the mission has not been closed.

Abulhasan explained that if Aldouri remained in the United States much longer, it might have been difficult for him to maintain his diplomatic status. A federal district court in NYC is considering contempt charges against the Iraqi ambassador for refusing to appear at a court hearing investigating alleged Iraqi ties to convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The State Department asked the federal judge to suspend any action in order to clarify its own legal position. A new hearing is scheduled for April 16, and U.S. diplomatic sources tell Time that if Aldouri leaves the country before April 16 they will do nothing to block him.

On the opposite side of the issue, the public rights group Judicial Watch has asked the district court to block any attempt by Aldouri to leave the country before April 16. It is unclear whether the court will decide to take action to keep the Iraqi ambassador should he leave Friday as planned.