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Senior Iraqi officials condemn detention of Shiite leader's son returning from Iran

Tehran, Feb 24, IRNA - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and leader of the Kurdish Party Massoud Barzani condemned on Saturday the arrest and detention of Ammar al-Hakim, son of the prominent Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim.

In separate messages, the two officials denounced Friday's arrest of Hakim as "illegal." Hakim and his bodyguards were arrested by US forces on the pretext his passport had expired. He was released 11 hours later and is now in the company of members of the local council of Kut province, latest reports said.

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim heads the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the main Shiite party in the country.

The arrest of Ammar al-Hakim, head of a cultural institute in Iraq, triggered anger from the Iraqi people and officials as Hakim, like his father, is one of Iraq's highly respected religious figures.

Thousands of Iraqis held protest demonstrations on Saturday denouncing his arrest.

The protestors said that US officials should apologize for the illegal arrest and detention of Hakim and called on the occupiers to leave Iraq.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad expressed regret for the incident and said that an investigation was to be conducted to find the reasons for Hakim's arrest.

"First, I express my regret for this arrest," Khalilzad said, adding, "We don't know the circumstances and we are investigating." There are reports Hakim was mistreated by US forces while on detention.

Al-Hakim rejects US claims on Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs

Ammar al-Hakim, son of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim who heads the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), on Saturday said US allegations of Iranian interference in Iraqi internal affairs were "unfounded and mere propaganda." Al-Hakim was speaking in an exclusive interview with the Iranian satellite channel `Al-Alam'.

He said Iran is a friend of the Iraqi people and a benevolent country, and added that Iraq is caught between Iranian and US problems on certain issues.

US forces released Ammar al-Hakim Friday night after he was arrested by US forces in the morning and detained for 11 hours.

A brother of Ammar, Mohsen Al-Hakim, told IRNA his brother and his bodyguards were arrested at the border while trying to return to Iraq from Iran on the pretext his passport had expired.

... Payvand News - 2/24/07 ... --

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