U.S. Forces In Iraq Release Iranian Suspect Iraqi officials announced the release over the weekend of an Iranian man who was arrested by U.S. forces. The U.S. military had accused the suspect of being an Iranian intelligence agent smuggling weapons into Iraq.

U.S. Forces In Iraq Release Iranian Suspect

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Venezuela is just one of the countries we're tracking on this Monday morning. Let's go next to Iraq. Officials there have released a man from neighboring Iran, a man who was accused of smuggling weapons. NPR's Ivan Watson reports from Baghdad.

IVAN WATSON: Baghdad International Airport is the main gateway for foreign dignitaries, security contractors, journalists, and businessmen coming in and out of Iraq.

(Soundbite of airport announcement)

WATSON: This is where the U.S. military announced it arrested an Iranian man last Tuesday. This Iraqi airport security guard, who asked not to be identified, witnessed the detention.

Unidentified Man #1: (Arabic spoken)

WATSON: He says American forces stopped a convoy of bulletproof cars outside the airport, which were carrying more than a half dozen Iranians in civilian clothes. The Iraqi eyewitness says the Americans subsequently detained one of the Iranians, putting a bag over his head. The U.S. military identified the suspect as a senior officer in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who had allegedly been working undercover as a contractor, rebuilding Iraqi religious shrines. In a statement released to the media, the military accused the man of smuggling weapons into Iraq, and added that he was caught carrying cocaine.

Iraqi officials identified the detainee as Nader Qorbani, who they said had been legitimately working in Iraq as a construction contractor. Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister, Labeed Abbawi, told reporters Qorbani's arrest was unlawful, and announced that he had been released. The spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Baghdad denounced the American arrest of Mr. Qorbani.

Unidentified Man #2 (Iranian Embassy Spokesman): (Through Translator) They arrested him because they had the wrong information. Americans are always doing things like this in order to obstruct the relationship between Iraq and Iran.

WATSON: A military spokesman confirms there are currently 15 Iranian detainees in American prisons. Some of them are accused of arming and training Iraqi militants. In the case of Nader Qorbani, the U.S. military says it complied with an Iraqi government request for his release. As for the cocaine allegations, a military spokesman says subsequent tests revealed that the white powdery substance found in Mr. Qorbani's possession was not a narcotic. Ivan Watson, NPR News, Baghdad.

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