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U.S. detains Iranians in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: U.S. military says detainees had weapons without permits to carry
  • Iranians work for Tehran's power ministry, says Iran's official news agency
  • AP TV shows U.S. soldiers escorting 10 people from Baghdad hotel
  • Associated Press describes the detainees as Iranians
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers arrested members of an Iranian government delegation Tuesday at a hotel in Baghdad and took them to an unidentified location, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.

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Associated Press Television caught blindfolded men being escorted from a Baghdad hotel.

The Iranians, who work for Tehran's power ministry, were in the capital at the invitation of Iraqi government officials to sign an electricity supply contract, the news agency said.

The U.S. military said it detained some "Iranian citizens with Iranian passports" and their Iraqi escorts, who carried Iraqi Department of Energy badges, at a checkpoint in the Abu Nuwas market in eastern Baghdad's Rusafa district.

The Iranians and Iraqis were detained when "a group of individuals in several vehicles" stopped at the checkpoint, and "several occupants were observed to have weapons," the military said.

Soldiers searched the vehicles and confiscated the weapons because the Iraqis did not have government-issued cards permitting them to carry weapons, the U.S. military statement said.

When asked about the discrepancy regarding the location of the incident, the military said it had no clarification.

The number of people arrested was not immediately clear, though Associated Press Television showed U.S. soldiers escorting 10 blindfolded people -- their hands bound in front of them -- from the hotel into military vehicles and driving off. Video Watch the men being escorted from the hotel »

AP described the detainees as Iranians. The U.S. military said it was investigating the report, but could not confirm it.

An Iranian Embassy spokesman in Baghdad said he could not comment.

In January, U.S. troops arrested six Iranians in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. The military said they were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraqi and coalition forces."

Iraq's Kurdish regional government, which is based in Irbil, characterized the January incident as a raid on the Iranian consulate in Irbil and sharply denounced the operation.

President Bush has accused Iran of training Iraqis to carry out attacks on U.S. forces.

"The Iranian regime must halt these actions," Bush said Tuesday. "And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."

The Iranian government denies involvement in the violence in Iraq.

U.S. officials have also expressed displeasure over Iran's arrest of four people with American-Iranian citizenship for allegedly working against the Islamic republic.

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Two have been freed, but have not been allowed to leave the country.

The United States accuses Iran of working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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