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01-11-07, 01:35 PM
U.S. detains 6 Iranians in Irbil raid
Jan. 11, 2007, 11:52AM
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA Associated Press Writer
2007 The Associated Press (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4463864.html)

BAGHDAD, Iraq U.S.-led multinational forces detained six Iranians Thursday at an Iranian government office in the northern city of Irbil, Iraqi officials said, as President Bush accused Iran and Syria of aiding militants and promised to "interrupt" the flow of support as part of his new war strategy.

The U.S. military said it had taken six people into custody in the Irbil region but made no mention of a raid on the Iranian government office.

The forces entered the building about 3 a.m., detaining the Iranians and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled northern part of Iraq, 220 miles from Baghdad.

A resident living near the building said the troops used stun bombs and brought down an Iranian flag from the roof. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, the resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. military official said the building was not a consulate and did not have any diplomatic status. The six Iranians were taken in a "cordon-and-knock" operation, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Baghdad was seeking clarification from the U.S. and Iran "about these people and what they were doing there and whether they were employees."

The regional Kurdish government condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the Iranians. It added that the government "was not aware in advance of the raid."

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi and Swiss ambassadors in Tehran and "demanded an explanation" about the incident. Switzerland represents American interests in Iran, where there is no U.S. embassy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run radio the raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal." Hosseini claimed the action by coalition forces reflected a "continuation of pressure" on Iran, aiming to "create tension" between Iraq and its neighbors.

Late last month, U.S. troops elsewhere in Iraq detained two Iranians and released two others who had diplomatic immunity.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military would continue to target networks of individuals, regardless of their nationality, that are providing weapons designed to kill American troops in Iraq.

"I think it's instructive that in the last couple of weeks two of those raids that we conducted to go after these folks that are providing these kinds of weapons _ two of those raids had policed up Iranians. So it is clear that the Iranians are complicit in providing weapons," he said.

The arrests come as tensions are high between Iran and the United States. The Bush administration has accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and of helping fuel violence in Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is trying to expand Tehran's role in Iraq as a counter to U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf region.

Al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, said any improvement in relations between the United States, Syria and Iran would only help Iraq.

"Sometimes we pay the price for the tension in relations between Iran and the United States and Syria, therefore it is in our interest ... that these relations improve, but not at the expense of Iraq," he said.

Bush's new strategy, however, ignores key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which in December called for a new diplomatic offensive and an outreach to Syria and Iran. Instead, the president accused both countries of aiding terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.

"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces," Bush said. "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria."

Politicians and ordinary Iraqis, meanwhile, expressed skepticism Thursday that Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq will quell the violence in their country, but some offered weary acceptance of any effort to stop the carnage after several failed past attempts.

The varied reactions underscore the challenges facing the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which is under pressure to rein in predominantly Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents as both sides have killed thousands in spiraling sectarian attacks.

An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed the new strategy but stressed that the government must take the lead in the military action. The plan also envisions 10,000 to 12,000 Iraqi troops to secure Baghdad neighborhoods, and al-Maliki has announced plans for a new Iraqi security operation, although similar past efforts have been unsuccessful.

"The failure in Iraq will not only affect this country only but the rest of the region and the world, including the United States," al-Maliki aide Sadiq al-Rikabi said.

"The current situation is not acceptable _ not only for the American people but also for the Iraqis and their government. As Iraqis and as an elected government we welcome the American commitment for success," he added. "The Iraqi government also is committed to succeed."

A Sunni lawmaker rejected the plan to send more U.S. troops and called instead for a timetable for them to withdraw, while other critics from both sects said it wouldn't succeed because of the power of mostly Shiite militias that have been blamed for much of the recent sectarian violence.

"Bush's plan could be the last attempt to fix the chaos created after the invasion of Iraq. Yet, sending more troops will not end the problem, on the contrary, there will be more bloodshed," said Sunni lawmaker Hussein al-Falluji.

Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said the "plan will fail. Sending more troops and financial support will not help if there is no sectarian and political solution."

Osama Ahmed, a 50-year-old Sunni who works in the Ministry of Higher Education, said he got up early to watch the speech, which was broadcast live at 5 a.m. Thursday on Iraqi state television.

"More U.S. troops will mean more wasted blood and more people killed," Ahmed said. "The violence will surge unless U.S. administration decides to curb militiamen who are part of the Iraqi government."

Abdel-Karim Jassim, a 44-year-old Shiite trader, said he had hoped Bush would come up with something other than the troop increase.

"Sending more troops will not solve the problem," he said, although he acknowledged that "Iraqis cannot handle security issue on their own because of the sectarian divisions and the strong militias and insurgents."

Awad Mukhtar, a 35-year-old technician, said Bush's new proposals could be Iraq's "last chance" for peace.

"The security situation in Iraq is very bad, we are facing death at any moment daily," Mukhtar said. "I see the new Bush strategy as the last chance for Iraqis to save their lives ... we have no other choice, only to wait and see the results."

01-11-07, 01:37 PM
Iran summons Swiss, Iraqi diplomats after raid
Associated Press (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1167467711637&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull)
Jan. 11, 2007 14:02

Iran's foreign ministry on Thursday summoned the Iraqi and Swiss envoys to Tehran over the detention of five Iranian staffers at a diplomatic mission in northern Iraq, state-run television reported.

The broadcast said the ministry had summoned the ambassadors and "demanded an explanation" about the incident. Switzerland represents American interests in Iran, where there is no US embassy.

The summons followed an early morning raid in Iraq, where multinational forces stormed the building of an Iranian consulate the Kurdish-controlled northern city of Irbil, 350 kilometers (220 miles) from Baghdad.