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07/12/09

Photos: Five Iranian Officials Held by US in Iraq, Return to Iran

By VOA News
Photos by Mona Hoobehfekr ISNA

Five Iranian officials, detained by the United States military in Iraq for more than two years, have returned to Iran just days after their release.

The U.S. military released the five Thursday after arresting them in 2007 on suspicion of helping Shi'ite militants. Iran says the five detainees released are diplomats.

The five were transferred to Iraqi authorities Thursday and immediately handed over to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad.

They arrived Sunday in Tehran's Mehrabad airport where they were welcomed by a crowd of people, including senior government officials.


Freed diplomats with Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki

U.S. officials say the five were released in compliance with a U.S.-Iraq security agreement that outlines the transfer of security responsibilities, and not as a political gesture toward Iran.

Earlier, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called the release a "good initiative" that could encourage dialogue between the United States and Iran.

The detentions contributed to a rise in tension between the U.S. and Iran, which also are in a dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Iran Threatens Legal Action Over U.S. Detentions

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has threatened the United States with possible legal action for detaining five of its officials for up to 30 months in Iraq.

The five Iranians were given a hero's welcome home on July 12 after their release last week, waving and smiling as they stepped from their plane at Tehran's Mehrabad airport to be met by their families.

Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who was also there to greet them, denounced their detention as "inhumane."

"We reserve the right to legally pursue...this action by the [George W.] Bush government," Mottaki said on state television, adding that they had remained detained after U.S. President Barack Obama took office in January.



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