AFP: Six Iranians detained by US forces in Iraq as part of a stepped up effort to counter alleged Iranian support for anti-US forces in the country did not have diplomatic status, the State Department said on Friday. WASHINGTON, Jan 12, 2007 (AFP) – Six Iranians detained by US forces in Iraq as part of a stepped up effort to counter alleged Iranian support for anti-US forces in the country did not have diplomatic status, the State Department said on Friday.
The six were nabbed in a night-time swoop by US forces on an office in northern Iraq early Thursday, prompting protests from Iran and strong criticism from other governments.
But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the six were not in Iraq as diplomats and the offices raided by US troops had not diplomatic status.
“The individuals who were detained were not carrying diplomatic passports, they had regular passports,” McCormack told reporters.
“This was not an oficially accredited diplomatic facitility,” he said of the building in the city of Arbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish northern region.
“It was a building that the Iranians were using, occupying, it was Iraqi territory,” he said. “It had no official diplomatic status”.
In Baghdad, the office was described as an Iranian liason office.
The raid came on the heels of a warning by US President George W. Bush that the United States would crack down on Iranian meddling in Iraq, where US commanders believe Tehran’s agents arm militias and incite anti-US attacks.
The US military later said it had freed one of the six people detained.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the office had not yet become a full-fledged consulate, indicating that the raid had not violated any diplomatic protocols as had initially been claimed in Tehran.
The US military earlier said those detained were “suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces.”