Reuters: Iran will make the United States “regret” its detention of five Iranians in Iraq since early this year, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Tuesday. By Fredrik Dahl
TEHRAN, June 12 (Reuters) – Iran will make the United States “regret” its detention of five Iranians in Iraq since early this year, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Tuesday.
Iran says the five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil in January are diplomats and has demanded their release. U.S. officials say they were involved in supporting militants inside Iraq.
“We will make the Americans regret their ugly and illegal action against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s consulate in Arbil, Iraq, and the abduction of the five Iranian diplomats,” Mottaki said, according to the state broadcaster’s Web site.
Mottaki said the Foreign Ministry had “put on its agenda a series of widespread actions against these unlawful and illegal actions that are in contradiction with all international conventions,” the ISNA news agency said, without giving details.
The issue has fuelled tension between the two old foes at a time of a worsening standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at making atom bombs. Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
Further souring relations, Iran is holding three Iranian-Americans on security-related charges. Tehran has dismissed any suggestions their cases might be linked to the five Iranians held in Iraq.
Mottaki said Iran would send a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the next few days complaining about the Security Council’s “clear discrimination” in delaying putting the issue of the detained Iranians on its agenda.
The Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions against the Islamic Republic since December over its refusal to halt sensitive atomic work.
Despite his tough statement, Mottaki held the door open for new talks with the United States on how to end violence in Iraq.
U.S. and Iranian officials held the highest profile meeting between the two countries in almost three decades on May 28 in Baghdad, an encounter that both sides described as positive.
Iraq’s ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, was quoted by IRNA as saying the issue of the five Iranians would be discussed in any future talks. No date has been set.
“The policy of supporting the Iraqi people and government and the return of security to that country .. is Iran’s definite policy,” Mottaki told reporters.
“If … the Americans are determined to solve the problem which they themselves are part of, we will put on the agenda the request by the Iraqi government to continue these negotiations with a positive view,” he said.
The United States accuses Iran of fomenting instability in Iraq. Iran rejects the accusation and blames the presence of U.S. forces in its neighbour for the violence.
Washington, which has led efforts to punish Iran over its nuclear activities, says it wants a diplomatic solution to the atomic row but has not ruled out military actions if that fails. Iran has repeatedly threatened to hit back if attacked.