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US frees 5 Iranian diplomats held since 2007 in Iraq

Press TV - Iran's ambassador to Baghdad says five Iranian diplomats who were kidnapped by US forces have been handed over to the government of Nouri al-Maliki.

"US occupying forces have handed over the five Iranian diplomats to the Iraqi Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki]," the ambassador told Fars news agency on Thursday.

"The diplomats will be transferred to the Iranian Embassy after meeting with the prime minister," Hossein Kazemi-Qomi said.

Three of the diplomats were among the five staff abducted in January 2007 by US troops in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil during a raid on the Iranian Consulate.

Two of the abductees were released later, and the three who were kept locked up were later joined by two other Iranians kidnapped elsewhere in Iraq by the US occupation troops.

Although they have never been charged or tried for any offence, the five remained in detention until today, despite repeated requests by the Iraqi government for their release.

The Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in February that, not only was his government pressing for their release, but that he even 'would throw a party to celebrate their release together'.

Press TV's correspondent in Iraq, Wisam al-Bayati, says the Iranians who were released almost an hour ago were working with Iran's Embassy in Baghdad before being detained by US troops.

The released diplomats are expected to appear at a Thursday news conference planned by the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad.

... Payvand News - 07/09/09 ... --

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