Monday, September 24, 2007

Malaysian Diplomat Apologizes For Mistaking Iraqi Pickles As Anthrax

A Malaysian diplomat has apologized to the Iraqi Embassy for mistaking a gift parcel of sweet pickles as anthrax powder, a news report said Saturday.

Zakaria Sulong, the newly appointed ambassador to Germany, sent a fax to the Iraqi mission offering his "sincere and deepest apologies" for the misunderstanding which he "deeply regretted," the New Straits Times said.

The Iraqi Embassy sent the parcel to Zakaria as a gift on Sept. 13 to mark the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. He only saw white powder when he opened it and fearing it might be anthrax, placed the box in a barrel outside his house and called the police, the newspaper said.

Police discovered the powder was sugar sprinkled on top of the pickles to preserve them, it said.

Iraq's envoy lodged a complaint with Malaysia's foreign ministry over Zakaria's "panic-stricken behavior," the report said.

Iraq's charge d'affaires Hoshiar Dazayi was quoted as saying the fruit pickles were an Iraqi delicacy and were also sent to the offices of the Malaysian king, prime minister and foreign minister as Ramadan gifts. "It is such a special sweet and this year I wanted to show my appreciation to the Malaysian government, the ministry and my friends," he said.

Zakaria's apology was personal and fell short of an official apology from the Malaysian government, he added. Zakaria and Iraqi Embassy officials could not be reached for comment. (International Herald Tribune)

***** Given the circumstances I really can't blame En Zakaria for reacting the way he did. In fact he should be applauded for being circumspect. After all it's always better to err on the side of caution.

The Iraqi Embassy could have given advance intimation to the Malaysian diplomat to expect a parcel from them. That would have avoided unnecessary problems to both sides. In any event it is a very small misunderstanding and should not affect the very friendly and brotherly relations between the Iraqi diplomats and Wisma Putra officials.
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