Iranian envoy detained in Karbala
* Iraqi captors make fresh demand for release of truck drivers
DUBAI: An Islamic group said on Sunday in a televised statement it had “detained” an Iranian diplomat in Iraq for allegedly stirring sectarian strife, in a move confirmed by Tehran’s embassy in Baghdad.
The Islamic Army in Iraq, in a statement read by the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel, said Fereydun Jahani was “detained for stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties.”
Pictures were shown of the diplomat’s passport, identity and business cards along with what appeared to be footage of him speaking, without sound, against a black backdrop. The group accused Iran of “blatant interference in Iraqi internal affairs,” the station said amid a war of words between Baghdad and Tehran. It added that the diplomat warned “all states against violating internationally recognized diplomatic duties.”
Jahani disappeared on Wednesday as he was travelling to the central Iraqi city of Karbala to open an Iranian consulate following an agreement to do so by the Iraqi interim government, embassy charge d’affaires Hassan Kazemi Ghomi said.
“We asked the coalition and Iraqi police if they knew what happened, but they said they hadn’t arrested him,” Ghomi said. “We recognised him from the television. No one has contacted us,” Ghomi added.
A group with the same name kidnapped two Pakistanis in Iraq last month and subsequently executed them for cooperating with the US-led multinational forces. Iranian officials have denied any interference in Iraqi affairs, but the war of words intensified on Sunday, with the foreign ministry in Tehran saying it was not prepared to discuss serious issues with Baghdad’s interim authorities.
The ministry also said it was summoning Iraq’s top diplomat in Tehran over claims that four Iranian spies have been arrested in Baghdad and demanding proof of the allegations. Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iraqi officials should “stop creating a bad atmosphere” between Iran and Iraq.
The kidnappers of seven truck drivers abducted in Iraq have put forward a new demand, the Kuwait-based employer of the hostages told an Indian news channel on Sunday, dimming hopes for their release.
“Till yesterday we were very close” to securing the release, Rana Abu Zaineh, spokeswoman for the Kuwait Gulf Link Company, told the Indian news channel Aaj Tak. agencies