Talabani Urges US to Free Detained Iranian

( Fars News Agency) Iraqi President Jalal Talabani demanded the immediate release on Saturday of an Iranian detained by the US military, after Iran's ambassador said the arrest called into question Iraq's sovereignty.

Talabani said the Iranian seized from a hotel in northern Iraq last Thursday was a civilian official who had been visiting with the blessing of both the Kurdish regional government and the authorities in Baghdad.

In a statement addressed to the top US officials in Iraq, General David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker, he said, "I am informing you of our displeasure over the arrest of the Iranian civilian official without consulting the government of Kurdistan. "That is a humiliation for the regional administration," said Talabani , who is himself a Kurd.

"You ignored our authority. I ask for his immediate release in order to maintain healthy relations between Iran and Kurdistan and for the prosperity of Kurdistan."

The US military seized Mahmudi Farhadi from a hotel in Iraq's northern Kurdish province of Sulaimaniyah on Thursday, charging that he was an officer of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

But Talabani insisted the detainee was an official on a "commercial mission with the knowledge of the federal government in Baghdad and the government of Kurdistan."

He said the arrest had triggered an angry reaction from Tehran which has "threatened to close its border with the Kurdish region if Mahmudi Farhadi , a civilian employee of Kermanshah (province in western Iran) is not released".

"This will handicap trade in the Kurdish region in this blessed month," he added in reference to Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

Both Iran and the Kurdish regional government have said that Farhadi was part of a visiting business delegation and Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi accused the US military of riding roughshod over Iraq's sovereignty.

"The Iraqi government must secure the release of the Iranian," Kazemi Qomi told AFP in an interview Saturday.

"This kind of action violates the sovereignty of Iraq," the ambassador said. "This is an example of American mistakes in Iraq."

Kazemi Qomi roundly rejected US accusations that Iran was undermining its neighbor's security insisting that, compared with Iraq's borders with US allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the frontier with Iran was a model of security.

The ambassador said the Iraqi government simply did not believe US accusations that Iran was fomenting unrest.

"How many Iranians accused of terrorism are in the prisons?" he asked, suggesting that no nationals had been convicted of involvement in the violence wracking Iraq.

"And how many are from countries considered friendly by the United States?" he added, in allusion to US regional allies Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Both US and Iraqi figures show that the majority of foreign fighters in Iraq come from those countries.

The US military is continuing to hold five Iranian diplomats it detained during a raid on Iran's consulate general in the northern Kurdish city of Arbil in January.

But the five have never been charged and Iran insists they are diplomats.

The US military also briefly detained eight Iranians, including two diplomats, from a Baghdad hotel last month.

But it later released them following protests from the Iraqi government in what it described as a "regrettable incident."

Kazemi Qomi brushed aside US accusations that his government was seeking to destabilize Iraq, insisting the border with Iran was Iraq's "safest".

" Iraq is an occupied country and the occupation brought terrorism into Iraq. America opened the borders and gave an opportunity to terrorists to enter Iraq and to criminals of the past regime to return," he said.

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