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Iran envoy 'abducted in Baghdad'
by BBC (reposted)
Tuesday Feb 6th, 2007 8:28 AM
An Iranian diplomat has been kidnapped by gunmen in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Tehran has confirmed.
Jalal Sharafi, the embassy's second secretary, was abducted from his car on Sunday in central Karrada district by men wearing Iraqi army uniforms.

Iran condemned the kidnapping and said it held the US responsible for his life. A US military spokesman said no US or Iraqi troops were involved.

The news comes amid US-Iranian tension over Iranian activities in Iraq.

Last month in a dramatic pre-dawn helicopter raid, the Americans detained five Iranians in northern Iraq, prompting Iran to issue a formal protest to the US.

The US has denied any involvement in the latest incident, but recently has been expressing increasing concern about alleged Iranian support for militant activity in Iraq.

Correspondents say the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme is adding to the tension.

On Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair accused Iran of "a strategy to create maximum trouble" in the Middle East.

Identification puzzle

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told the Isna news agency that Mr Sharafi had been kidnapped by a group linked to Iraq's defence ministry "which works under the supervision of American forces".

by UK Independent (reposted)
Wednesday Feb 7th, 2007 7:32 AM
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published: 07 February 2007

The kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad by gunmen dressed in Iraqi security force uniforms has ignited new tensions between Iran and Washington, as the Islamic regime said it was holding the US directly responsible for his release and safe return.

The circumstances surrounding the abduction of Jalal Sharafi, a second secretary at Iran's embassy in Baghdad, were confused. But it came amid accusations from the Bush administration that Iran was arming Shia militias fighting US troops, and an ever-growing confrontation over Tehran's nuclear programme.

According to an Iraqi official, Mr Sharafi was detained on Sunday by an Iraqi army unit that reports directly to the US military, outside the Baghdad branch of the Iranian Bank Melli. Some accounts spoke of a gun battle before the car carrying the diplomat escaped.

An American spokesman denied yesterday that US troops or Iraqis under their command were involved. "It was not an MNF-I (Multinational Forces-Iraq) unit that participated in that event," the spokesman said. But his version of events was contradicted by Iranian officials. According to a spokesman in Tehran, Mr Sharafi had been kidnapped by a group linked to Iraq's defence ministry "which works under the supervision of American forces" - and American forces were thus "responsible for the life and safety" of the diplomat.

In Baghdad's chaotic conditions, the line between political violence and common crime is often blurred at best. But this affair comes less than four weeks after US forces detained five Iranians at the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, saying they were meddling in internal Iraqi affairs. That incident was quickly followed by US claims that Iran was supplying arms and training to militias that had attacked US troops - although no detailed evidence has yet been made public.