Iran Calls on US to Free Diplomats Kidnapped in Iraq

A00870801.jpgTEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran strongly rejected a US accusation that five Iranian diplomats arrested in northern Iraq last week are supporting the insurgency.

The men were kidnapped Thursday during a raid by US troops on Iran’s consulate general in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

The US military says the five are connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), but Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini stressed here on Sunday the role of the men was diplomatic.

He underlined that they worked in an office set up in 1992 to facilitate the visit of Kurdish businessmen and medical patients from Iraq to Iran.

Hosseini further called on the US to release the men and compensate the damages its troops have inflicted on the consulate general.

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 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 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, 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.

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