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Iranian office raided by US not yet consulate: Iraq

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AFP: Five Iranians detained by US forces in Iraq were working with official sanction but their “liaison office” had not yet become a full consulate, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari clarified Friday.
BAGHDAD, Jan 12, 2007 (AFP) – Five Iranians detained by US forces in Iraq were working with official sanction but their “liaison office” had not yet become a full consulate, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari clarified Friday.

Thursday’s raid, in which American troops swooped on an Iranian office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, triggered a diplomatic row, with Tehran accusing the US force of violating the building’s diplomatic status.

Zebari said that the office did not yet enjoy diplomatic protection and that Iraq was working with US officials to resolve the dispute.

“It is a liaison office. There was a request to change it into consulate,” he told AFP, adding that the office had been working for 10 years in what is the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

“We had already agreed with the Iranians to open consulates in Arbil and Sulaimaniyah in return for opening (Iraqi) consulates in (Iranian cities) Mashhad and Ahwaz. These procedures have not been finalised,” he said.

Asked about the remaining five detainees — six were taken but one was later released — Zebari said: “They are not with us. They are with the Americans.
“We contacted the US embassy and submitted all the information available to us on the nature of their work and the place of their work. They have been working under the approval of the government,” he said.

On Thursday, the US military said the six were arrested by troops “targeting individuals involved in activities aimed at the killing of Iraqi citizens and coalition forces.”

The raid came after President George W. Bush warned the United States would not tolerate Iranian meddling in Iraq, where US commanders believe Tehran’s agents have been arming militias and inciting anti-American attacks.

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