TEHRAN 11 Aug. (IPS) As relations between Iran and Iraq continue to degrade, the official Iranian news agency IRNA confirmed on Wednesday 11 August that the Iraqi police had arrested its bureau chief in Baghdad and three Iraqi journalists.
According to both IRNA and the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, the Police arrested Mr. Mostafa Darban, a journalist and IRNA’s bureau chief and three Iraqi nationals working with him on Monday afternoon.
“Eyewitnesses said two vehicles carrying Iraqi uniformed policemen arrived at the IRNA’s office, arrested all the people there and took away all equipments”, the Agency said, not explaining why it waited two days before announcing the news.
The arrest came barely one day after the kidnapping of Mr. Fereidoun Jahani, appointed as Iran’s consul in the holy city of Karbala.
A former Baghdad bureau chief, speaking to state television, said a group of armed men had stormed the IRNA bureau in Baghdad.
The arrest came barely one day after Iran confirmed the kidnapping of Mr. Fereidoun Jahani, an Iranian diplomat that was just appointed as Iran’s consul in the holy city of Karbala.
Mr. Jahani had been abducted by an Iraqi grouping naming itself as the Iraqi Islamic Party a week ago, but the news about his kidnapping was made public by an Arabic satellite television, showing also identity cards establishing him as an intelligence officer from the Revolutionary Guards.
Iran’s State-owned, conservatives-controlled television also reported that four Iranians on a trip to promote trade ties between Tehran and Baghdad had been arrested by U.S. troops in Iraq.
Mr. Hasan Kazemi Qomi, Iranian charge d’affairs in Baghdad said the Embassy had sent letters to both Iraqi Defence and Interior ministries for explanations.
According to IRNA, all telephone communications between Tehran headquarters with the Baghdad office has been cut out immediately after the arrest of the journalists and the confiscation of material and equipments.
Tehran’s relations with Baghdad clouded after Iraqi Defence Minister labelled Iran as Iraq’s “number one enemy”.
Though the Iraqi authorities had offered no explanation so far, but sources said the measure could be related to the flare up of fighting between American-led Coalition forces with followers of the Iraqi rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
In their report, Iranian media have taken a strong position in favour of the maverick Hojjatoleslam, accusing American and British forces of “slaughtering” innocent Iraqi Muslims and deliberately destroying Shi’a holy places, not mentioning that Mr. Sadr not only has refused to put down arms, as demanded by the Iraqi interim government, but has assured that he would fight the American “invaders until his last drop of blood”.
Visiting recently the holy city of Najaf, Mr. Iyad Alawi, the Iraqi Prime Minister urged Mr. Sadr and his Army of Mahdi to put down arms and leave the city, where he declared a 16.00 to 06.00 hour curfew.
Tehran’s relations with Baghdad clouded badly after Mr. Hazem Sha’lan, the Defence Minister, labelled the Islamic Republic as Iraq’s “number one enemy” and the Interior Minister’s announcement of the arrest of four Iranian officers charges with “espionage”.
In response, Iranian press said Mr. Sha’lan is a “petty CIA informer” and accused him to obey orders from his “American masters”. ENDS JOURNALISTS ARRESTED 11804