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Iranian MPs call for release of diplomat, IRNA reporter in Iraq

Tehran, Aug 16, IRNA -- At least 192 Iranian MPs, in a letter to President Mohammad Khatami, urged the government to exert all its efforts to secure the release of a diplomat and IRNA reporter as well as 100 other Iranians, held in Iraq.

Mostafa Darban, IRNA
reporter arrested in Iraq

IRNA's Baghdad bureau chief Mostafa Darban and two Iraqi staff, Mohammed Khafaji and Mohsen Madani, were arrested by the Iraqi police last Monday.

Tehran also says one of its consular officials in Iraq, Fereidoun Jahani, has disappeared since August 4 on the road between Baghdad and Karbala.

According to the MP from Mahallat and Delijan, Hassan Abbasi, the parliamentarians, in their letter, urged that 'the freedom of individuals and their dignity' be safeguarded.

"The MPs have asked the president and Iran's diplomatic apparatus to use all their efforts to secure the release of the IRNA reporter and Iranian consul as well as 100 Iranian nationals," he told reporters here Monday.

A statement from a group, calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, has alleged that Jahani was 'detained for stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties'.

On Sunday, the Arabic satellite channel Al-Alam said that the armed group had threatened to 'punish` Jahani within 48 hours if Iran did not release 500 prisoners captured in the 1980-1988 war.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the 'identity of the group and the nature of its demand are suspicious'.

"The case of the two countries' prisoners of war has been closed and what still remains is the file of those missing in action," he said.

Asefi said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the interim Iraqi government responsible for the safety of Jahani and expects it to use all its means to secure his release.

"We have held various round of negotiations with the interim Iraqi government and all the groups which are thought to be able to help in this matter and this process still continues," he added.

Asefi has earlier said that Jahani disappeared on the road from Baghdad to Karbala where he was to take up his assignment as the Iranian consul.

Iran has strongly dismissed allegations of interference in Iraq, saying these were 'without evidence`.

An unnamed Iranian source has been quoted as saying that the group had acted in collaboration with the US Embassy in Iraq under direct supervision of US Ambassador John Negroponte.

Iran has twice summoned Iraq's top diplomat to Tehran for explanation following the arrests and certain Iraqi officials' allegations against Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Saturday that the accusations, including those by Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem al-Shalaan, had been directed only at 'unofficial figures` in Iran.

"We do not accuse the Iranian government of interference in Iraq's domestic affairs," he told IRNA reporter in Najaf.

"We want establishment of good relations with neighboring countries, especially Iran, and believe that our bilateral ties are based on common interests," Allawi said.

Allawi has also promised to personally pursue the case of the missing Iranians.

According to the political advisor of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Mohsen Hakim, the pledge was made during a meeting between SCIRI chief Abdel Aziz Hakim and Allawi in Najaf Friday night.

"The issue relating to the detention of four members of Iran's cooperatives fund in Baghdad, IRNA bureau staff in Baghdad and Iranian consul in Karbala was raised in the meeting and the Iraqi prime minister promised to follow it up," he told IRNA Sunday.

... Payvand News - 8/16/04 ... --

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