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Iraq Transition

Tehran official may meet with Iranians held by U.S.

Story Highlights

• Iranian news agency says representative will meet with five Iranians held in Iraq
• U.S. official says Washington is considering the request for a meeting
• U.S. has held them since January, saying they were helping Shiite militias
• Abducted Iranian diplomat returns to Tehran; it's unclear who kidnapped him
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Iranian representative in Iraq will meet with five Iranians being detained by U.S. forces, the Iranian state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said Wednesday.

The meeting would take place "thanks to the efforts of Iran's diplomats in Baghdad, the assistance of Iraqi officials and the U.N. representative Ashraf Ghazi," the agency reported, saying the information came from an Iranian source in Baghdad.

A U.S. military official said Washington was considering Tehran's request to allow Iranian representatives access to the five detained Iranians, whom U.S. forces captured in January during a military raid in northern Iraq.

"The request has been made, but nothing has been approved," the official told CNN on Wednesday. It has "gone to Washington for consideration."

The five detainees are suspected of having connections to Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, which the United States accuses of providing weapons and funding to Shiite militas in Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The men were detained January 11 in Irbil, an Iraqi Kurdish city near the Iranian border. Iran complained to the United Nations that the raid was in "clear violation of international conventions" because it took place at an Iranian consulate.

The United States maintains its forces raided an Iranian liaison office that does not have the same diplomatic status as a consulate.

The Geneva Conventions state that embassies and foreign missions are immune from searches, arrests and detentions.

It was not clear whether negotations about the five Iranians were connected to Iran's detention of 15 British sailors and marines. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday that the Britons would be granted amnesty and freed. (Full story)

On Tuesday, Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi said his ministry was continuing to push for the release of the five Iranians.

Iranian diplomat released

Meanwhile, Abawi said that a top Iranian diplomat seized by gunmen in Baghdad two months ago was released Tuesday.

Jalal Sharafi, deputy secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, arrived in Tehran a few hours after his release, according to Iran's semiofficial FARS news agency.

Sharafi was abducted February 4 in front of a branch of the Iranian state-owned Bank Melli in central Baghdad.

According to Iran's Students News Agency, Sharafi's kidnappers were wearing uniforms similar to those of Iraqi security forces.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini had said those responsible for the kidnapping "acted under U.S. supervision."

The United States has denied any role in the kidnapping. Spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver on Tuesday said the U.S. military did not have any role in finding or releasing Sharafi, but would have provided assistance if it had been requested.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report.

Iranian diplomat Jalal Sharafi, left, is welcomed back to Tehran on Tuesday by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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