London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A number of Iraqis, including Iraqi Government officials, have complained that the British Embassy in the Jordanian capital Amman does not accept and recognize Iraqi passports issued after the rule of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein whose numbers start with the letter (S).
An Iraqi diplomat in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry told “Asharq al-Awsat” by telephone from Baghdad yesterday that the “reason why these passports are not accepted is a statement by the head of the department that issues Iraqi passports confirming that large numbers of copies were stolen and forged.” The official who spoke on condition of remaining anonymous added: “But the reasons we have received from the embassies of some countries is that this passport does not have the specifications that are in line with the international conditions for passports.” He explained: “The passports that are internationally accepted at present are the one that start with the letters (M.N.H) and these were issued during Saddam Hussein’s rule while passports that start with the letter (S) were issued during the periods of the occupation and the Iraqi governments that came after the former regime’s collapse.”
Dr. Salah al-Shaykhali, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland, told “Asharq al-Awsat” yesterday that “extensive negotiations are still continuing between the British Foreign Office and our embassy on one side and between the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and the British Embassy in Baghdad on the passports issue. These talks have not reached any results so far.” He pointed out that the “Iraqi Embassy in London is waiting for the issuance of the new Iraqi passport that will be in line with the international specifications.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had said in a previous statement to “Asharq al-Awsat” that the “Iraqi passport needs time until other countries look at it with a different eye due to the security conditions, the terror that is in Iraq, and the misuse. There is at present a serious attempt to issue a new passport that meets all the international conditions and specifications to prevent its forgery.” He stressed that “Iraq will treat citizens of countries that deal with the Iraqis badly in the same way”, adding: “Reciprocal treatment is a diplomatic principle and one of the principles of international treatment all over the world and Iraq is not an exception. We will take the same measures against anyone who does not respect our citizens.”
Barry Martson, the British Foreign Office spokesman, told “Asharq al-Awsat” that “starting the 1 st of November, the British Foreign Office will not accept Iraqi (S) series passports when traveling to the United Kingdom.” He pointed out that the “Iraqi Government started on 11 April to issue new passports that start with the G series and can be read by computers because they conform to the international specifications (the numbers of the G series passports start with the letter G; for example, G123456).
Martson added: “The new series passports are more secure to a large degree than the old ones (which start with the letter S) and are accepted as proof of personal identity and a document for the purpose of traveling to the United Kingdom.” He said: “In light of this, the United Kingdom will stop accepting passport starting with the letter S according to the following timetable: From 1 st September 2006, no entry visas will be granted to those carrying passports from the old series. From 1 st November 2006, passports carrying the old series will not be accepted for the purpose of traveling to the United Kingdom. The valid visas given for the old passports should be attached to the new G series passports. Iraqi citizens who carry old passports and intend to travel or return to the United Kingdom on or after the 1 st of November 2006 should obtain a passport from the new series. Anyone seeking to enter the United Kingdom on or after the 1 st of November 2006 carrying an S series passport will be banned from entering the United Kingdom.”