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Iran summons US representative over detention of diplomats

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday December 25, 2006

Washington/Tehran- Iran on Monday summoned the Swiss ambassador, whose country represents the United States interests in the Islamic republic, over the detention of Iranian diplomats by the US military in Iraq, ISNA news agency reported. The Foreign Ministry conveyed its protest to US officials via the Swiss ambassador and termed the move as being against all diplomatic norms.

The US military detained at least four Iranians in Iraq on suspicion of carrying out or planning attacks against Iraqi security forces, the New York Times reported Monday.

The White House confirmed the seizure in response to questions by the newspaper, but did not make an official announcement. Bush administration officials identified those seized as "senior military officials."

"The Iranian diplomats were invited by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the Iraqi government is therefore responsible for their release and the intruders (US) should give relevant explanations in accordance with international norms," Foreign Minister spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said.

"This move will have unpleasant consequences," the spokesman said without giving further details.

The US has long charged that Shiite-dominated Iran has been interfering in Iraq and supporting militant actions aimed at the Sunni minority that was overthrown with the 2003 ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Another two Iranians, who were accredited diplomats, were also seized and turned over to Iraqi authorities who released them, according to Gordon D Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

In reference to the remaining Iranians in custody, Johndroe said, "We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees."

The seizures occurred in two separate raids and have upset Iraqi officials who have been trying to get Iran involved in calming Iraq's chaotic situation, the New York Times said.

One of the raids occurred on the Baghdad compound of a man who met US President George Bush last week, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a powerful Shiite leader.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency