Tuesday, August 28, 2007

US 'seizes Iranian group in Iraq'


Seven Iranians working for the Iranian Electricity Ministry have been arrested by US forces in Baghdad, the Iranian embassy says.

A spokesman told the BBC the embassy had contacted the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and would send a formal protest letter in the morning.

He said the Iranians were in Baghdad in connection with the building of a power station.

The group were detained at the Sheraton Hotel where they were staying.

Video footage showed soldiers leading a group of men, blindfolded and handcuffed, out of the hotel in central Baghdad.

Other soldiers were seen leaving the hotel carrying what appeared to be luggage and a laptop computer bag.

The arrests come shortly after a speech by US President George W Bush in which he criticised Iranian interference in Iraq.

Tension between the US and Iran is running high - with the US accusing Iran of providing arms, money and military training to Shia insurgents in Iraq.

President Bush specifically stated that he had authorised his military commanders in Iraq to confront what he called "Iran's murderous activities" in the country.

Earlier the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that American power in Iraq was on the verge of collapse and this would lead to a huge vacuum which Iran would be willing to fill.

In January, five Iranians - who the US say are linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard and were training militants in Iraq - were captured in the northern city of Irbil.

The five remain in US custody.

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