BAGHDAD/STOCKHOLM, July 20 (Reuters) – Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador on Thursday in protest at a planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm that had prompted hundreds of protesters to storm and set alight the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.
An Iraqi government statement said Baghdad had also recalled its charge d’affaires in Sweden, and Iraq’s state news agency reported that Iraq had suspended the working permit of Sweden’s Ericsson on Iraqi soil.
Anti-Islam protesters, one of whom is an Iraqi immigrant to Sweden that burned the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque in June, had applied for and received permission from Swedish police to burn the Koran outside the Iraqi embassy on Thursday.
In the event, the protesters kicked and partially destroyed a book they said was the Koran but left the area after one hour without setting it alight. The Koran, the central religious text of Islam, is believed by Muslims to be a revelation from God.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said embassy staff were safe but Iraqi authorities had failed in their responsibility to protect the embassy.
The Iraqi government strongly condemned the burning of the Swedish embassy, according to a statement from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani which declared it a security breach and vowed to protect diplomatic missions.
But Baghdad had also “informed the Swedish government … that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Qur’an on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations”, the statement said.