US Military Releases Iranian Diplomats in IraqWorld | July 9, 2009, Thursday // 16:17| views
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi announced the release. Photo by daylife.com
The US military has freed five Iranian diplomats held since 2007, handing them over to the Iraqi government prior to their planned departure for Tehran, Iranian and Iraqi officials said.
"The American government has handed over the (Iranian) hostages and prisoners to the Iraqi government," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi told Iranian state TV on Thursday. He said the prisoners had been received in person by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at his office in Baghdad.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he had met with the diplomats and that they are "happy and safe," the Los Angeles Times reported.
An Iranian embassy spokesman in Baghdad said the five would be handed over to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad later in the day. The U.S. military refused to confirm or deny the report, saying it had a policy of not commenting on individual releases.
According to Zebari, the five were freed under the terms of the security agreement between the U. and Iraq signed in December, under which the US is to hand over all detainees to the Iraqi government by the end of the year.
The diplomats had been detained in January 2007 in the northern city of Irbil in the autonomous region of Kurdistan. The U.S. military subsequently said they were not diplomats but members of the elite Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and accused them of arming, funding and training Shiite militias in Iraq.
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