Iran: Relations With Iraq In Danger If Diplomats Detained By The U.S. Are Not Freed

Sunday, April 8th 2007, 2:21 pm
By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran's foreign minister warned Sunday that cooperation with Iraq could deteriorate if five Iranian diplomats detained by U.S. troops in Iraq are not set free.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran is seriously pursuing the fate of the detained diplomats and urged Iraq to do the same, according to Iran's state broadcasting company's Web site.

``If their efforts do not yield results, it will undermine Iran's aid to Iraq,'' the report quoted Mottaki as saying.

The United States detained five Iranians in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil in January and refused to release them or allow Iranian officials a chance to visit the men.

Mottaki also criticized the U.N. Security Council for not responding to a letter he said Iran sent it to protest the U.S. detention.

``The U.N. Security Council has refused to show appropriate action in cases like the diplomats' abductions although it has repeatedly interfered in cases not related to its duties under pressure from major powers,'' the Web site quoted Mottaki as saying.

Iraq, which like Iran is majority Shiite, has found itself in a difficult position since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, trying to maintain good relations with its neighbor while not angering the Americans.

Their relations grew even more complicated last month when Iran captured a British navy crew, holding it captive for nearly two weeks. Britain, which has more than 7,000 troops in southern Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition, patrols the Iraqi coastline in the Gulf. Iran said the British crew was in its waters, but Britain and Iraq insisted the capture took place in Iraqi territory.

In another sign of strained relations Sunday, Iran's Foreign Ministry said the country had no plans to meet with U.S. officials on the sidelines of the upcoming conference on Iraq, Iran's state news agency, IRNA, reported.

The U.S. has accused Iran of providing money and weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, while Iran has argued that the presence of U.S. troops is destabilizing the country. U.S. officials have not commented on potential contact with Iran at the upcoming conference.

Zebari on Saturday announced that the upcoming conference would be held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on May 3-4. But Hosseini claimed the date and location had not been decided and expressed Iran's desire to hold the conference in Baghdad.

Iran also on Sunday confirmed that it refused to allow Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's plane to fly through Iranian airspace, IRNA reported, quoting Hosseini.

The spokesman said the dispute was a technical issue.

``For all flights there is a need for authorization, for which formalities must have been done in advance,'' Hosseini was quoted as saying.

Members of the delegation traveling with al-Maliki told The Associated Press early Sunday that the plane was diverted to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where al-Maliki stayed in the airport for more than three hours while his government aircraft was refueled and a new flight plan was filed.