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Diplomats Attacked in Ambush As Iraqis Work on Constitution

By Edward Wong
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BAGHDAD, IRAQ

Gunmen ambushed the senior Bahraini and Pakistani diplomats in separate attacks as they drove through the capital on Tuesday, spurring Pakistan to announce the withdrawal of its ambassador from Iraq.

Even as insurgents tried to undermine the new government by striking at Muslim envoys, Iraqi politicians made some progress on writing a new constitution, in an attempt to give Iraq political legitimacy. In a meeting, Shiite and Kurdish politicians accepted 15 Sunni Arabs who had been named to increase Sunni representation on a constitutional committee.

In Tuesday’s attacks, the Bahraini diplomat, Hassan Malallah al-Ansari, was struck in the right hand by a bullet and taken to a hospital, while the Pakistani ambassador, Muhammad Yunis Khan, escaped unharmed, though a car in his convoy was raked by bullets. The ambushes came three days after the top Egyptian diplomat here was kidnapped as he drove alone through western Baghdad. Insurgents appear to have begun an organized campaign to drive Muslim diplomats out of Iraq as the American and Iraqi governments are pressing Arab countries to send ambassadors here and upgrade their diplomatic ties.

The militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist, said in an Internet posting late on Tuesday that it had kidnapped the Egyptian diplomat, Ihab al-Sharif. The message said Sharif was abducted “by the hands of our mujahedeen, and he is under the control of the mujahedeen.” The group made no immediate demands.

At least 10 Iraqis and one American soldier died in other guerrilla attacks on Tuesday.

The meeting of the constitutional committee ended a brief impasse that had developed because a few committee members had tried to disqualify some of the Sunnis because the Sunnis might have been senior Baath Party officials. In theory, Sunni Arabs will now have more say in the writing of the constitution, though it is unclear how representative these politicians are of other Sunnis and whether they will be able to work smoothly with the rest of the committee.