Iran Protests Detention of Eight Iranians in Iraq

President Bush speaks at the 89th Annual American Legion Convention on Aug. 28 i i

President Bush speaks Aug. 28, 2007, at the 89th Annual American Legion Convention at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
President Bush speaks at the 89th Annual American Legion Convention on Aug. 28

President Bush speaks Aug. 28, 2007, at the 89th Annual American Legion Convention at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Tehran on Wednesday summoned a Swiss diplomat who represents U.S. interests in Iran to protest the overnight detention of eight Iranians by U.S. troops in Iraq.

The eight were arrested Tuesday after unauthorized weapons were found in their vehicle at a checkpoint, U.S. military officials said. They were released Wednesday.

An adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq called the situation "regrettable."

The incident came as relations between Washington, D.C., and Tehran are already strained by the detention of each other's citizens. The U.S. has also accused Iran of involvement in Iraq's violence and of trying to develop nuclear bombs.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it had summoned the Swiss diplomat.

Iraq Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini called the U.S. action an act of "interference" in Iraq's internal affairs and "inconsistent" with the responsibilities of U.S.-led occupation forces in Iraq.

Four cars carrying the Iranians, as well as seven Iraqis, were stopped at a checkpoint Tuesday evening and then allowed to proceed to the nearby Sheraton Ishtar hotel, where they were later taken into custody and questioned, military officials said.

Saadi Othman, an adviser to U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, told British Broadcasting Corp. television that the incident was "regrettable" and had "nothing to do" with President Bush's remarks Tuesday. Mr. Bush lashed out at Iran for meddling in Iraq's affairs and fomenting instability there.

Bush strongly criticized Iran in a speech to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nev., in which he presented a ringing defense of the unpopular Iraq war effort.

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," said Mr. Bush, whose administration has accused Iran of arming Shiite militias in Iraq. "The Iranian regime must halt these actions."

Troops seized three weapons — a Kalashnikov assault rifle and two 9mm pistols — that had been in the possession of the Iraqis in the group. The Iraqis were serving as a protective detail but had no weapons permits, U.S. military officials said.

"Following the brief room search, the group was taken to a coalition facility for questioning," the U.S. military said in a statement. "The Iranian nationals had passports. It was later determined that two of the Iranian individuals were carrying diplomatic credentials."

All of the Iranians were released Wednesday to Iraqi officials, military officials said. The fate of the Iraqis — who identified themselves with Iraqi Ministry of Electricity badges — was not immediately clear, and military officials did not say whether the confiscated items were returned.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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