Iraq is threatening to sever diplomatic ties with Sweden if a planned burning of the Quran goes ahead in Stockholm on Thursday.
The warning comes as images have emerged of protesters storming the Swedish embassy in Baghdad for the second time in less than a month, lighting a small fire and sending plumes of smoke into the air.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani convened a meeting with security officials and said in a statement after that Iraqi authorities will prosecute those responsible for the arson as well as referring “negligent security officials” for investigation.
But the statement also said his government has “informed the Swedish government… that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Quran on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations,” according to Reuters.
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State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. is offering its support to Sweden in the wake of the embassy storming.
“The United States strongly condemns the attack on the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad in the early hours of July 20. Freedom of peaceful assembly is an essential hallmark of democracy, but what occurred last night was an unlawful act of violence,” he said. “It is unacceptable that Iraqi Security Forces did not act to prevent protesters from breaching the Swedish Embassy compound for a second time and damaging it.”
Online videos showed demonstrators at the diplomatic post waving flags and signs showing the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr ahead of a planned burning of the Islamic holy book Thursday in Stockholm by an Iraqi asylum-seeker who burned a copy of the Quran in a previous demonstration last month.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “our embassy staff are in safety” and that it condemns “all attacks on diplomats and staff from international organizations,” The Associated Press reports.
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“Attacks on embassies and diplomats constitute a serious violation of the Vienna Convention. Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff,” the statement added.
Finland’s ambassador to Iraq, Matti Lassila, told Finnish public broadcaster YLE that the staff of the Finnish and Swedish embassies were evacuated Wednesday, The Associated Press also reported.
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“As a result of demonstrations at the Swedish Embassy on Thursday 29 June, Friday 30 June and Thursday 20 July, the Embassy is closed to visitors until further notice,” the Swedish Embassy in Iraq said on its website. “It is not possible to call the Embassy, and the Embassy is not able to issue passports – this includes provisional passports.”
In late June, the AP reported that hundreds of followers of al-Sadr stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad after a Quran was burned outside a mosque in central Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.
Fox News’ Lawrence Richard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.