Russia to preserve its diplomatic mission in Iraq

Russia has no plans to pull its diplomats out of Iraq, despite the rise of violence against diplomats in the country, Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told reporters that the Russian mission in Baghdad was taking additional security measures, but there were no cutbacks planned.

News reports earlier this week said two Russian embassy vehicles were shelled as they drove to Baghdad's airport.

In a Web posting yesterday Al-Qaida stated that it killed Egypt's top envoy in Iraq, Ihab al-Sherif, posting a video of the blindfolded diplomat, identifying himself.

"We announce in the al-Qaida in Iraq that the verdict of God against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, has been carried out. Thank God," a written statement in the Web posting said, according to the AP.

The video does not show him being executed. It shows a man who appears to be the diplomat, Ihab al-Sherif, blindfolded and wearing a polo shirt. He says his name, says he is the head of the interests section in Iraq and gives his address. He then says he worked previously in Israel, where al-Sherif was part of the Egyptian embassy.

Ihab al-Sherif was kidnapped in the Iraqi capital over last weekend. Last Sunday, officials said that Egyptian diplomat Ihab al-Sherif, 51, chief of his country's diplomatic mission in Baghdad, had been kidnapped. Witnesses said he was seized Saturday night by about eight gunmen after he stopped to buy a newspaper in western Baghdad.

On Wednesday the kidnappers of Egypt's envoy in a Web statement threatened to kill him for apostasy.

On the photo: Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko

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