The US military said a grenade started a fire that "was quickly extinguished by the Baghdad fire department".

The attack at 1740 GMT was confirmed by Dutch foreign ministry spokesman Martine de Haan, who said there were no casualties.

"The Netherlands was clearly targeted in this attack," she said in The Hague.

There are four Dutch diplomatic staff in Iraq led by a charge d'affaires.

Unoccupied building

Dutch PM Jan-Peter Balkenende
(L) supported the Iraq war 

The four, who normally stay in the embassy building but were not there at the time of the attack, "have been taken to safety at an American base", said de Haan.

She said it was too early to say if the country's diplomatic staff would remain or be repatriated.

In November, The Hague moved its diplomats in Iraq to the Jordanian capital Amman for security reasons.

The four Dutch representatives had recently returned to Iraq where they reside on a "semi-permanent" basis, de Haan said.

Dutch troops 

At least two other explosions shook the Iraqi capital in the hours after the Dutch embassy attack, the US military confirmed.

Nervous Iraqi guards at the embassy in the Nidhal residential district were seen entrenched behind barbed wire and cement walls with a flood light illuminating a 100m security perimeter.

The Dutch have 1200 troops stationed in southern Iraq as part of the US-led multinational occupation force.