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Iraqi Kurds Criticize U.S. Detention of Iranian Diplomats

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Kurds, among America's staunchest supporters, condemned the detention Thursday of six Iranian diplomats during a raid by U.S. forces on an Iranian consulate in the Kurdish city of Irbil.

The Kurdish president and regional government released a statement calling for the release of the six detained during the early-morning raid and firefight. One of the diplomats later was freed, the U.S. military said.

"The U.S. action does not conform to the policy of attempting to spread security and stability throughout all of Iraq," the statement said, adding that the raid was conducted without local approval.

"The people of the Kurdistan Region protest against and reject this action which violates our internal sovereignty," the statement said. "We do not accept that disputes with our neighboring countries should be brought onto our soil."

The raid follows similar detentions of Iranian diplomats during raids in Baghdad three weeks ago. The Bush administration has accused Iran of arming and supporting Shiite militias and meddling otherwise in Iraq's affairs.

In his speech Wednesday night, President Bush vowed that troops will "interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," and "destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

The raid occurred several hours before Bush's speech.

The language of the Bush address contrasts with a call by the Iraq Study Group to open negotiations with Iran, as well as Syria. On Thursday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh urged the United States to repair relations with those nations, saying "we pay the price for the tension."

In comments unrelated to the Thursday raid, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace on Thursday said it was "instructive" that raids against weapons suppliers have in the past "had policed up Iranians."

"So it is clear that the Iranians are complicit in providing weapons, and it's also clear that we will do all we need to do to defend our troops in Iraq by going after the entire network, regardless of where those people come from," Pace said in Washington, D.C.

Shocked Irbil residents said they saw U.S. soldiers drop from helicopters onto the Iranian diplomatic building at the center of town at about 4 a.m.

The intense firefight that ensued on a residential street jolted residents in a city that largely has been spared the daily bloodshed of Baghdad, about 220 miles south.

The U.S. military released a statement acknowledging that troops had detained six individuals suspected of attacking Iraqi and U.S.-led forces earlier in the day. But the statement said the six detainees were taken "without incident," and did not specify the detainees' nationality or where they were found.

Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. troops clashed with insurgents in and around Baghdad, while police reported recovering 37 bodies in Baghdad during the 24-hour period ending Thursday.

Insurgents could be seen trading mortar fire with U.S. troops Thursday morning in Dora, a southern Baghdad neighborhood.

U.S. and Iraqi Interior Ministry forces raided three homes in the sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City, detaining five men, according to witnesses.

U.S. and Iraqi forces were still securing downtown's Haifa Street, the scene of a massive offensive Tuesday that killed at least 51 insurgents.

Five Iraqi police officers heading home for weekend leave Thursday were killed by gunmen in the mostly Sunni Al Khadra neighborhood in northern Baghdad, police said.

Eight high-ranking Ministry of Oil officials were kidnapped on their way to work in the capital Thursday by men in Iraqi Police uniforms, according to police reports. The men, who arrived in two police cars, seized the ministry's bus, separated Sunni officials from Shiites, beat the Shiites, then released them before leaving with their Sunni co-workers, saying, "You will see the bodies of these four at the garbage dump by tomorrow."

In the northern city of Samarra, a suicide bomber attempted to drive his truck into the house of the city council chief Thursday morning, but was stopped by barricades. The explosion destroyed five nearby homes and killed three people, police said.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Los Angeles Times


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