Rice Offers to Help Gain Release of Egyptian Diplomat Kidnapped in Iraq

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) on Tuesday offered Egypt the help of the United States in trying to gain the release of Ihab el-Sharif, Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq who was kidnapped on Sunday.

In a telephone call to Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit (search), "she offered any help that we might make available to the Egyptian government," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"And we called for the diplomat's early and speedy release, unharmed," McCormack said.

He provided no details what the United States might do to try to liberate the diplomat — if Cairo asked.

Insurgents mounted attacks against Arab and Muslim diplomats in Iraq on Tuesday, wounding Bahrain's top envoy in a kidnapping attempt. Pakistan's ambassador escaped an assault on his convoy.

The two diplomats escaped. Pakistan announced it was withdrawing its ambassador, and Bahrain's diplomat also planned to leave.

"We, along with the Iraqi government, are concerned about the safety and well-being of any individual who is in Iraq to try to help the Iraqi people build a democratic, more prosperous and stable country for themselves," McCormack said.

Last month at an international conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Iraq's reconstruction, the United States urged other countries to send their diplomats to Iraq in a show of support for the Iraqi people and government.

"We offered our assistance and, again, we work quite closely with other members of the international community to provide whatever help we might in order to protect them while they are there," McCormack said.

"The demonstration of support by sending diplomats or other types of assistance, an on-the-ground presence, is a strong signal to the Iraqi people and those who might try to undermine what it is that the Iraqi people, along with the international community, are trying to do," he said.