AP: Iran on Wednesday summoned the Swiss diplomat representing American interests here to protest the U.S. forces’ detention in Baghdad of eight Iranians, including two diplomats, the Foreign Ministry said. Associated Press
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran on Wednesday summoned the Swiss diplomat representing American interests here to protest the U.S. forces’ detention in Baghdad of eight Iranians, including two diplomats, the Foreign Ministry said.
The U.S. military said it released the Iranian delegation on Wednesday, just hours after they were detained because unauthorized weapons were found in their cars. An adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq called the detentions “regrettable.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the U.S. action was an act of “interference” in Iraq’s internal affairs and “inconsistent” with the responsibilities of U.S.-led occupation forces in Iraq.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d’affaires at the Swiss Embassy over the “illegal” detention of members of an Iranian Energy Ministry delegation, state-run television reported.
Switzerland looks after the U.S. interests in Tehran in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington.
Four cars carrying the Iranians, as well as seven Iraqis, were stopped at a checkpoint Tuesday evening and then allowed to proceed to the nearby Sheraton Ishtar hotel, where they were later taken into custody and questioned, the military said.
Troops seized an AK-47 assault rifle and two 9mm pistols that had been in the possession of the Iraqis in the group. The Iraqis were serving as a protective detail but had no weapons permits, the U.S. military said.
At the hotel later, U.S. troops confiscated a laptop, cell phones and a briefcase full of Iranian and U.S. currency in the hotel, the military said.
Video shot Tuesday night by AP Television News showed U.S. troops leading blindfolded and handcuffed men out of the hotel in central Baghdad.
The images were not shown on Iranian television.
Hosseini said the delegation was in Baghdad to hold talks with Iraqi officials on building a power plant when they were detained by U.S. forces in the hotel they were staying.
“These actions are contrary to the responsibilities of foreign forces in Iraq and is another mistake in the erroneous behavior of the Americans,” he said.
The incident came as tensions between Washington and Tehran were already strained by the detention of each other’s citizens as well as U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in Iraq’s violence and alleged Iranian efforts to develop nuclear bombs.
Iran has constantly complained about the U.S. detention since Jan. 11 of five Iranians who were in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. U.S. officials say the five include the operations chief and other members of Iran’s elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants.
On Tuesday, President Bush accused Iran’s leadership of trying to destabilize Iraq, saying, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his part, said that U.S. political influence in Iraq is “collapsing rapidly” and that Tehran is ready to help fill any power vacuum.