1 of 2 | Iraq on Thursday expelled Sweden's ambassador to the country and recalled its own ambassador from Sweden in a conflict that erupted with protesters storming the Swedish embassy in Baghdad. Photo by Caisa Rasmussen/EPA-EFE
July 20 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani on Thursday expelled Sweden's ambassador to Baghdad and recalled the country's ambassador to Stockholm as tensions flared over Koran burning.
The prime minister's office said the moves were made in response to the "Swedish government's repeated permission for burning the Holy Quran, insulting Islam and burning Iraqi flag."
Iraq had previously threatened to cut off all diplomatic relations with Sweden if it continued to permit Koran burnings.
"The Iraqi government has informed the Swedish government through diplomatic channels that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Koran on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations," a statement from the Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office on Twitter said.
The action came after the Swedish embassy in Baghdad was swarmed by Iraqi protesters as Salwan Momika, an Iraqi national living in Sweden, organized an anti-Muslim protest in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Thursday. No Korans were burned but two protesters were shown on video destroying the Koran while another appeared to polish his shoes with the Iraqi flag.
Stockholm police said about 150 people attended the protests but the majority were journalists.
Momika had previously burned the Koran with the permission of the Swedish government at the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Sweden's Ministry for Foreign Affairs Press Office confirmed to UPI in an email that they have been informed of the incident at the embassy and that all staff at the embassy in the Iraqi capital were safe.
The incident followed a similar conflict last month as dozens of protesters stormed the compound of the Swedish embassy in response to Momika's acts in Stockholm.
Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement published via Twitter, said it has ordered "an urgent investigation" into the incident and for "necessary security measures" to be taken "to uncover the circumstances of the incident and identify the perpetrators of this act and hold them accountable according to the law."
Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Tobias Billstrom also said the government "strongly condemns these attacks" and that it had summoned Iraq's diplomatic representative to "express our dismay."
"Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff," Billstrom said.
Sweden is on the verge of being approved as the newest member of the military alliance NATO, but their membership had been previously held up by Turkey over the burning of the Koran. Turkey earlier this month dropped objections to Sweden after months of criticizing Sweden for not taking stronger action against anti-Muslim groups there.
Thursday's incident also came after a divided U.N. Human Rights Council last week approved a resolution calling on countries to take action against religious hatred amid a series of Koran-burning protests. The council approved the measure that calls for members to "address, prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred" in a 28-12 vote that saw seven members abstain.
The United States and many of its Western allies voted against the measure because of fears it could curtail free speech.
The United Nations on Thursday condemned the storming of the Swedish embassy.
"The attack on the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad is to be condemned," the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said in a statement on Twitter. "While the right of peaceful assembly is fundamental, the safety of all and respect for the Vienna Convention must be prioritized. Fighting hate speech with violence doesn't help anyone."