Before the mid-March war on Iraq, four active spies worked out of the Iraqi mission on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Said Ahmad, who now serves as head of the mission, said on Friday.
The most feared intelligence presence in the mission, he said, was Abdul Rahman I.K. Saad, expelled by the United States in June 2002 for ''activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.''
Saad's formal title was ''first secretary'' -- a relatively high rank for a U.N. diplomat.
Two others, described as ''guards,'' lived in the mission basement, on a constant vigil against defections and disloyalty to Saddam, Ahmad told Reuters.
An Iraqi journalist expelled by the United States in February, Mohammad Hassan Allawi, also was a spy despite denials by Iraqi officials, he said.
Allawi, 38, was based at the United Nations and well-liked by his media colleagues, who never suspected his dual roles. Washington forced him to leave the United States a few weeks before the war began.
The two ''guards'' also went back to Baghdad before the fighting began, giving the remaining staff some freedom.
Things got even more relaxed after U.S. Marines entered Baghdad...
After U.S. Marines toppled Saddam's statue in central Baghdad on April 9, at least a dozen framed portraits of the former Iraqi president were removed from the mission's walls, Altayi said in an interview.
''There wasn't much ceremony,'' he said. ''It was more like, 'Get these damn pictures out of here.''' While most were destroyed, some were given away as souvenirs, he said.