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Iran seeks release of arms dealer facing sentence in U.S.

  • Amir Hossein Ardebili is to be sentenced December 14
  • Ardebili tried to illegally buy U.S. weapons for the Tehran, U.S. says
  • He was captured in Eastern Europe in 2007, but case made public last week

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran is calling for the release of an Iranian arms dealer who U.S. authorities say tried to illegally buy U.S. weapons for the Tehran government and was secretly charged, arrested and extradited, state-run media reported Monday.

Iran's Press-TV reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki wants the United States to secure the "unconditional release" of Amir Hossein Ardebili, who is scheduled to be sentenced December 14 by a federal judge in Wilmington, Delaware.

Ardebili, of Shiraz, Iran, was captured by Georgian agents in a sting operation in the Eastern European nation of Georgia in 2007. He was transported to Wilmington, where he was held, and he pleaded guilty in 2008, federal officials said last week.

The case was kept under wraps for two years while U.S. authorities tracked leads gleaned from Ardebili's computer that helped reveal Iran's secret campaign to buy sensitive U.S. military equipment, federal officials said last week.

In his meetings with undercover agents, Ardebili had requested missile and aircraft parts and night vision equipment, the officials said.

The disclosures Wednesday were announced by David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, and John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

"For years the defendant was in the business of acquiring components, many with military applications, for the government of Iran," Weiss said. "This investigation and prosecution has put the defendant out of business and removed this threat to our national security."

Officials said Philadelphia-based undercover agents with the immigration agency began tracking Ardebili in 2004.

In documents released Wednesday, Ardebili is quoted as saying he wanted to buy the equipment to help Iran in what he said was an expected war with the United States.