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Iran Reopens 2 Consulates in Iraq

Iranian ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi (front L) lifts the Iranian flag in Arbil.
ARBIL, Iraq, Nov 6 (Alalam) --Iran re-opened Tuesday its consulates in Sulaimaniya and Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region, in the presence of the region's Prime Minister Nejervan al-Barazani and Iran's ambassador in Baghdad Hassan Kazemi Qomi.

"We had two consulates in Arbil and Sulaimaniya but unfortunately the US forces arrested five personnel from our consulate in Arbil and are still under custody," said Qomi, terming the arrests as "illegal and ran counter to Iraq's sovereignty."

"We wish the detainees would be released soon so that they return to their jobs in the consulate.

The re-opening of those two consulates was in coordination with the central Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurdistan region's government," Qomi said.

The Iranian diplomat called on Arab countries to open their consulates in Iraq.

US forces had retained five staff of the Iranian consulate in Arbil on charges of offering assistance for armed groups in Iraq. Iran's government then denied the baseless accusations and argued that they were diplomats.

Extending thanks to Iran over re-inauguration of its two consulates in northern Iraq, Barazani said "the two consulates will offer facilities for citizens of the region wishing to visit Iran or develop trade relations between the two countries."

In this regard, the US military said on Tuesday it will release nine Iranians arrested in Iraq in recent months, including two seized in a swoop in the Kurdish city of Arbil in January.

US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told reporters that the nine will be released in the coming days as none of them posed a threat to security in Iraq.

He said two of the detainees were seized in Arbil in January this year and the other seven were detained at various other times.

In January, the US military detained five Iranian diplomats who were picked up in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil.

Another Iranian official Mahmoud Farhadi was detained by the US military in September after which Tehran closed the Iraq-Iran border for a fortnight.

Iran and the Kurdish regional government say Farhadi is a businessman who was part of a commercial delegation visiting the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.

It is not known whether he is among the nine

... Payvand News - 11/07/07 ... --

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