News On Iran & Its Neighbours Iraq Rice rejects link of Iran arrests and captures of...

Rice rejects link of Iran arrests and captures of guards in Iraq

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New York Times: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday rejected linking Iran’s charges against three Iranian-Americans in Tehran to the Bush administration’s capture of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iraq. The New York Times

By HELENE COOPER
Published: May 30, 2007

BERLIN, May 29 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday rejected linking Iran’s charges against three Iranian-Americans in Tehran to the Bush administration’s capture of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iraq.

Ms. Rice’s comments suggested that the rare meeting on Monday between American and Iranian envoys had done little to warm relations.

“It’s really just a perversion of the rule of law,” Ms. Rice told reporters aboard her plane en route to a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized nations in Hamburg next week.

Speaking of the three Iranian-Americans charged in Tehran, she said, “These are people who are there trying to make life better in Iran, and, in the case of a couple of them, they’re there to meet their families.”

On Tuesday Iran charged the three — an academic, Haleh Esfandiari; a social scientist, Kian Tajbakhsh; and a journalist, Parnaz Azima — who have both American and Iranian citizenship with spying, a day after Washington and Tehran held their highest-profile direct talks in years.

The three have been arrested, detained or prevented from leaving the country in separate cases over the last several weeks and months. Under Iran’s Islamic law, the charge leveled on Tuesday could carry the death sentence.

Iran analysts have suggested that hard-liners in the Iranian government may be seeking to use the arrests for leverage with the United States, which has accused Iran of sowing unrest in Iraq and of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Ms. Rice said that the five Iranian Revolutionary Guard members arrested by United States forces in Iraq on Jan. 11 were working to destabilize Iraq and were “endangering” American troops there. “The two are simply not linked,” she said.

Iran maintains that the men are diplomats and should not have been detained.

Ms. Rice was headed from Berlin for discussions with her counterparts from Russia, France, Germany and Britain in Potsdam on Wednesday about how to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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