Iran confirms release of its delegates arrested by U.S. in Iraq

Iran Materials 29 August 2007 13:46 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - The Iranian ambassador to Iraq confirmed Wednesday that a group of Iranian energy officials arrested by U.S. troops on Tuesday night had been released, Tehran's official news agency IRNA reported.

Hassan Kazemi Qomi said the delegates were handed over to the Iraqi prime minister's office at 7:00 a.m. local time.

A U.S. military source earlier confirmed that the group had been detained in Iraq, but said the incident occurred at a checkpoint, contrary to Iranian reports.

IRNA earlier reported that the delegates, who had traveled to Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi Energy Ministry to discuss electricity supplies, were arrested at the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel in Baghdad.

A duty officer at the U.S. command in Baghdad told RIA Novosti: "On the evening of August 28, a group of people in several vehicles attempted to pass through checkpoint No.1 at the Abu Nuwas market in Western Rusafa. When they arrived at the checkpoint for a routine check, some of them were found to be in possession of arms; their vehicles were then searched."

"The people accompanying the Iranian nationals showed Iraqi Electricity Ministry ID," he said. The group had no licenses for their weapons, which have been confiscated, along with the vehicles' contents pending investigations, he said.

IRNA had reported that the group was arrested after U.S. troops surrounded their hotel in Baghdad. Troops searched the delegation's personal belongings, then detained them and took them to an unknown destination, the agency said.