MOSUL, Oct 21: Guerillas fired mortars close to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his entourage, which included the interior minister and his national security adviser , during a visit to the northern city of Mosul on Thursday.

Mortars fell on a multinational force base as Mr Allawi and other visiting officials were getting ready to board helicopters on their way back to Baghdad.

Reporters travelling with Mr Allawi saw a small blaze and smoke rising nearby after the helicopters took off. A US military spokesman confirmed the attack.

"There was a seven-round mortar attack in the vicinity of FOB (forward operating base) Al Huriya. No damage or casualties," Lt Col Paul Hastings said. Asked about the mortar attack, Mr Allawi said "this is not a deterrent really".

"This is yet another sign that there are people who came and are coming from outside Iraq who are determined to put a stop to our progression forward and we are not going to allow this and nor will the Iraqi people," he said.

"This trip was announced and known ... There is monitoring and it was known that I was coming to Mosul, so I was certainly surprised this didn't happen at the beginning but at the end. It seems these terrorist forces are not fully prepared yet to commit this act."

Iyad Allawi, who was accompanied by Interior Minister Falah al Naqib and National Security Advisor Kassim Daoud, met the local city council, the governor, police and national guard chiefs and tribal leaders to discuss security and reconstruction in the province.-AFP

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