Iran Calls for Immediate Release of Diplomats

A02351927.jpgTEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran on Sunday called on the US troops to release the five Iranian diplomats who have been kidnapped during an earlier raid by the US forces on the Islamic Republic’s consulate general in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini during his weekly press conference here on Sunday briefed reporters about the latest measures Tehran has adopted to set the five Iranian diplomats free.

At around 3 a.m. Thursday morning, US troops disarmed the guards outside the Iranian consulate general office in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, broke into the building and confiscated computers and documents there while military helicopters were hovering overhead.

Despite Americans’ allegations, the liaison office had diplomatic immunity and functioned as a consulate general office issuing travel documents and carrying out other consular tasks. An Iranian flag flying over the building was hauled down during the raid.

Hosseini described the raid as a self-centered action in blatant violation of the international rules and conventions.

He also strongly rejected Rice’s statements about the US raid on Iran’s consulate general office in Erbil allegedly claiming that the US forces have hijacked diplomats of the Iranian mission in Erbil because of the office’s support for terrorist acts.

Hosseini underlined, “The assumption made by Rice was incorrect. All activities of the consulate office in Erbil were legal, official and approved by the Iraqi officials.”

Dismissing similar allegations by the US officials that the office did not enjoy diplomatic immunity as it had not been registered with the Iraqi government as a consulate office, he stated, “The mission launched its official operation with the agreement of the Iraqi regional officials in 1992 and simultaneous with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and it deals with consulate activities and affairs, such as issuing entry visas for traders, businessmen and patients.”

He also said, “When the volume of activities increased, both governments agreed to promote the mission to the level of a consulate general office.”

“Therefore, according to the rules and regulations of international conventions, the building and staff of Iran’s consulate office in Erbil should be immune. The same rules dictate that no government is authorized to harm the staffers or take any measure whatsoever against the office,” Hosseini pointed out.

He confirmed the release of one of the kidnapped mission staffers, saying, “The person was the cook of the office as a local staff.”

The spokesman called on the US forces to immediately release the five Iranian diplomats they have kidnapped during the Thursday raid, stressing that Americans should compensate for the damage they have inflicted on the consulate general office.

He also dismissed allegations by the US officials that the five arrestees are members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reiterating that they have been dealing with consulate affairs and that all their actions have been in conformity with the diplomatic rules and regulations.

“Americans are just trying to make a ploy against us to justify their illegal actions,” Hosseini underscored.

Reminding that Iran’s embassy in Iraq is pursuing the issue, he said the Swiss and Iraqi ambassadors to Tehran have been summoned to the foreign ministry in the same regard.

In absence of formal diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington, Switzerland represents US interest section in Iran.

Asked about Iran’s likely measures in case the United States refuses to release the diplomats, Hosseini said, “The United States is striving to make the atmosphere more tense as it believes that it can obtain its interests under such conditions. Yet, the Islamic Republic of Iran will pursue the case wisely and through official channels.”

Mentioning that the case is currently under investigation in cooperation with the Iraqi officials, he expressed the hope that the five other diplomats would be released as soon as possible.

Asked about an earlier proposal by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, for attending talks with her Iranian counterpart, the diplomat said, “Under the present circumstances, speaking of negotiations is meaningless and sounds hypocritical.”

Rice has recently voiced her preparedness to attend talks with the Iranian foreign minister on the condition that Iran stops all its enrichment activities prior to such negotiations.

Hosseini said that Rice’s offer was not something new, adding, “Washington had raised similar overture in the past concerning Iran’s nuclear activities and Tehran has so far provided proper responses to such offers.”

Also regarding Rice’s new remarks about the region and Iran, the spokesman said, “Ms. Rice should also know that no coalition can be formed against Iran in this region,” adding that the statements of the US Secretary of State revealed that Washington has opted for confronting Iraq’s neighboring states rather than helping to the establishment of stability in Iraq.

Asked whether the US would escalate attacks on Iran, he stated, “Certain individuals raised military option but the Pentagon officials and the US Defense Department dismissed it.”

Also asked about the new Iraq strategy of the US president George W. Bush, the foreign ministry spokesman said it seems that the US administration has taken no lesson from the grave consequences of its mistakes in the past, reminding that the US officials and experts oppose Bush’s new strategy.

“Bush’s decision for dispatching 20,000 fresh troops to Iraq, which is viewed as another step in his incorrect militarist approach towards the social malady in Iraq, is totally opposed to the Baker-Hamilton report which called for the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq,” he said.

Hosseini stressed that the new Iraq strategy of the Bush administration will not bring stability and security to Iraq and the region.

“The US does not intend to establish stability and security in Iraq, rather it is endeavoring to revive its lost prestige in an honorable way,” he stated.

Elsewhere, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman stressed that despite the recent UN Security Council resolution which called for an immediate halt of Iran’s enrichment activities, the nuclear operations at Natanz enrichment facility continue.

In response to another question about a reported visit to Tehran by the French foreign minister, he said that the two sides have not yet adopted any final decision in this regard.

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