Acknowledging a mistake, U.S. forces have released eight Iranians, including two diplomats, seized at the Baghdad Sheraton Ishtar hotel yesterday. The Iranians from the Ministry of Electricity had been working at the invitation of the Iraqi authorities.
“Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari told the British Broadcasting Corp. the Iranians were released after Iraqi officials intervened and told the Americans they were part of an official delegation on a legal visit to discuss electricity cooperation,” the AP reports.
The seizure came hours after President Bush delivered a speech to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada in which he had threatened to confront Iranian operatives in Iraq.
“I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities,” Bush was cited. “The Iranian regime must halt these actions.”
An Iraqi advisor to U.S. Iraq commander General David Petraeus, Saadi Othman, insisted there was no connection between the two events. “Othman … told British Broadcasting Corp. television that the detentions were ‘regrettable’ and had ‘nothing to do’ with President Bush’s remarks on Tuesday,” the AP reports.