INGTON (AFP) - Iraq on Wednesday joined a chorus of protest over a new US watchlist targeting visitors from 14 countries, describing the measure as ineffective and counterproductive.
I think it is unfair, said Samir Sumadaie, Iraqs Ambassador to the United States. And more important than being fair or unfair is whether it is actually going to work.
If you treat the entire populations of so many countries as suspects with one blanket decision it is counterproductive, he said. It tends to alienate people and its very, very doubtful that it will produce any significant increase in the security of air travellers.
The new Transportation Security Administration watchlist requires passengers who are citizens of 14 designated countries, or are travelling via those nations, to undergo special security screening.
The measure was announced in the wake of a failed attack on Christmas Day by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight by detonating explosives hidden in his underwear.
But Sumadaie pointed out additional screening would not have been necessary to catch Abdulmutallab as the US government already had intelligence that could have led to his arrest.
Improving the use of intelligence is obviously a much more direct means of identifying the real threat. Not everybody is a threat, he said.
The Iraqi ambassador said he had expressed strong concerns about the new measure to the State Department.
Abdulmutallabs homeland Nigeria was also placed on the list, prompting the government in Abuja to warn Wednesday of a diplomatic rift.
Nigeria views this action as having the potential of undermining long-standing and established US-Nigeria bilateral ties and the goodwill the US enjoys in Nigeria, a statement released after a cabinet meeting said.
Among the countries on the new directive are US-designated state sponsors of terrorism Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. Also targeted are Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.
In a statement, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee said it was troubled by the directives because a disparate segment of the Arab-American community will be scrutinised.
The blanket labelling of hundreds of millions of civilians based solely on their country of citizenship or travel is not only unfairly discriminatory based on national origin, but also improperly labels millions of innocent people as somehow suspect or possible terrorists, the group added.
A coalition of South Asian organisations also protested the measures, saying they continue a pattern of profiling that our communities have endured since September 11, 2001.
Moreover, the measures promote existing misperceptions about these communities as threats to security and harm the US governments reputation, both domestically and abroad, towards ensuring civil rights and equality, the groups said in a statement.