MADRID, Spain – Spain (search) said Tuesday it was withdrawing much of its diplomatic staff from Iraq for security reasons, becoming the third coalition country in recent weeks to downgrade its presence in Baghdad (search) or leave altogether.
The Spanish Embassy (search) will remain open but with minimal staffing and a significant number of its 29-member staff is being pulled out, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio was quoted as saying these staffers would return shortly.
"We have taken staff out of Baghdad temporarily given that it is a very complicated moment," the private Spanish news agency Europa Press quoted Palacio as saying in Berlin where she was attending a German-Spanish summit.
A Spanish navy captain was killed in the truck bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, and a Spanish sergeant working for Spain's military intelligence was assassinated Baghdad on Oct. 9. Security at the Spanish embassy had been stepped up in recent weeks.
The Netherlands moved their diplomats from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan last month, as did the Bulgarians.
Spain thus becomes the third member of the coalition to downgrade its presence in recent weeks. Spain has a much higher profile in the coalition than the Dutch and the Bulgarians.
Spain, which has some 1,300 soldiers based in Iraq, was one of the strongest supporters of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq despite massive public opposition at home.