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BRITISH DIPLOMAT GRABS ENGLISHMAN FROM IRAQIS AFTER BOGUS EXCHANGE

An Englishman who was jailed in Iraq on spying charges was turned over to a British diplomat Friday, but only after the envoy was forced to chase down Iraqi officials and grab the former prisoner from them.

Consul Michael Tobin pulled Douglas Brand, of England, from two Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials shortly after midnight in downtown Amman.Brand, a 51-year-old engineer, was supposed to have been freed Thursday on the Iraq-Jordan border, but Iraqi officials refused to give him to Tobin.

Instead, they sneaked Brand out a back door of a border checkpoint and began a 250-mile, high-speed drive to Amman with Tobin in pursuit.

Tobin's car eventually cut the Iraqi car off before it could reach Baghdad's embassy in Amman and the consul grabbed Brand from the Iraqis.

Brand was among the foreigners who were taken hostage by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces on the eve of the Persian Gulf war.

He was arrested in September and sentenced to life in prison for spying. Most other foreigners being held hostage in Iraq were freed before the war started. But Brand's case became entangled in the politics of the U.N. trade embargo against Iraq and he was only freed in Baghdad on Tuesday, after British Prime Minister Edward Heath interceded with Saddam.

"It is marvelous to be free," Brand told reporters as he was walking toward the car. "I am fine and happy to be out," he said to a crush of watching cameramen. "I am looking forward to going back and I can't wait to go home," he added. Brand refused to discuss his captivity in Iraq.