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May 17, 2003

Confirmed: Iraqis tried to attack Israel's embassy in Romania

The Romanian spy service said on Thursday that it averted terrorist attacks on Israeli and Western targets in Romania planned by Iraqi operatives before the war in Iraq.

The United States on Saturday confirmed a report that its facilities in Romania had been the target of Iraqi-planned terrorist attacks before the war, the embassy said Saturday.

It did not detail the targets, but other Romanian officials said the US and the Israeli embassies were among them.

Israeli Ambassador Sandu Mazor said he had been informed by the Romanian spy service about attacks on his embassy that were planned to take place during the Iraq war.

"We can confirm that there was indeed a threat to US government facilities during the period leading up to the hostilities in Iraq," the US Embassy said in a statement.

According to the Romanian intelligence service, an Iraqi spy working under diplomatic cover was supposed to procure the weapons - AG-7 grenade launchers - to be used in the attacks. The attacks were to be carried out in the event of military action against Iraq.

When the plans were uncovered in March, Iraqi agents were allegedly planning their plot, but the decision to attack was to be made at the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence services, the Romanian intelligence service said.

Romanian authorities reacted at the time by declaring 10 Iraqi diplomats and 31 other people persona non grata, expelling some and barring others from entering the country.

The government also tightened security at nuclear facilities, foreign embassies and other possible targets.

The intelligence service said it cooperated with other foreign espionage services, and that documents found in Iraq's espionage headquarters after the war "fully confirmed the information obtained by the Romanian intelligence service."

Romania, a close ally of the United States during the war on Iraq, allowed the US military to use Romanian airspace and an air base to deploy troops to Iraq.