BRUSSELS (Nov. 19)
The head of the Belgian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee reportedly was refused a visa to visit Iraq on a humanitarian mission because he is a member of the Jewish community and an active supporter of Israel.
But Jean Gol, a former deputy prime minister and member of the Liberal French-speaking party, denies he was ever a candidate for the mission.
Nevertheless, he was “honored to be persona non grata for the Iraqi Embassy,” Gol told the European Jewish Press Agency.
According to press reports, parliamentary leaders, with the government’s approval, decided to send a seven-man mission to Baghdad to try to free the 37 Belgian hostages still detained there.
The mission, consisting of one representative of each parliamentary faction, is supposed to leave next week. According to well-informed sources, Gol was picked by his party but the Iraqi Embassy refused him a visa.
Gol stressed that he would not be part of the delegation, which includes several members of pro-Arab groups.
Earlier this month, Willy de Clercq, a Belgian Liberal member of the European Parliament, declined at the last minute to accompany former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt to Baghdad on a mission to gain the release of hostages.
Media reports suggested that de Clercq was refused an Iraqi visa because he chairs an Israel-Europe group in the European Parliament, which is based in Strasbourg, France.