Middle East

Britain to close consulate in Iraq's Basra

From left, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, British Foreign Minister William Hague and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle share a word during a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday Oct. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

LONDON: Britain will close its full consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra as part of government austerity measures, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday.

The Foreign Office will keep an office in Basra, which was under British command following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but there will be no permanent staffing, Hague said.

Business leaders with investments in the area criticised the decision amid fears it could give rival Chinese companies a foothold in Basra, Iraq's southern port city and a strategic oil hub.

"We will maintain a British embassy office in Basra to support our work with all of Iraq's central and southern governorates. However, this will not be staffed permanently," Hague said in a statement to parliament.

Diplomats and trade officials can fly down from Baghdad when needed, Hague said.

Savings on the current £6.5 million ($10.4 million, 8.0 million euros) a year cost of the consulate will go towards plans to open 11 new British embassies and eight new consulates in emerging countries by 2015, Hague said.

The wider plans were first announced last year as part of a British government spending review as London tries to cut a record deficit, although the Basra decision is new.

The Iraq-Britain Business Council, a trade body, condemned the move.

"British business presence down in Basra is absolutely critical," executive chairman Emma Nicholson told BBC radio.

"I hope this is a step sideways and not a step backwards. I'm very hopeful the Foreign Office cuts, which I think should not have happened and should not be affecting Basra may be reversed before too long."

The council said it had opened a new office in Basra in July.





Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (

comments powered by Disqus



Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here