US not to free Iranians in Iraq

Robert Gates, the United States defence secretary, has said that the US has no plans to release five Iranians who were captured in Iraq and accused of supporting anti-government fighters there.

US not to free Iranians in Iraq

RobertGates, the United Statesdefence secretary, has said that the UShas no plans to release five Iranians who were captured in Iraq andaccused of supporting anti-government fighters there.

He alsorejected speculation that the UShad been part of a deal which led Iran to release 15 Britishservicemen earlier on Thursday.

"Ithink there's no inclination right now to let them go," Gates toldreporters in Washington when asked about thefive Iranians, who were captured by US forces in northern Iraq inJanuary.

Washington has denied that it had been involved in any deal whichoffered concessions to Iranin return for the release of the 15 British servicemen, who were seized byIranian troops near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

GeorgeBush, the USpresident, said on Tuesday that he agreed with Tony Blair, the British primeminister, "that there should be no quid pro quos when it comes to thehostages".

Accessto Iranians considered

Gates,however, said that US and Iraqi officials were considering arranging forIranian representatives to visit the captured men, whom Iran says arelegitimate diplomats.

"Iraqigovernment officials and USofficials are discussing if there's some way, perhaps, that there could be somekind of Iranian access to them," he said.

"Butas far as I know, there's no requirement for that.

"Idon't think that consular access is being considered. I think the issue iswhether there's some other means by which some other access might begiven."

Gates'scomments came after Major-General William Caldwell, a US military spokesman, told reporters in Baghdad that a consularrequest to visit the five Iranians was "being assessed".

The fiveIranians were arrested by US forces in the northern city of Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, on January 11.

US officials accused the men of being members of theelite Al-Quds brigade of Iran'sRevolutionary Guards and of helping organise attacks on US and Iraqi forces.

Washington and Tehran broke offdiplomatic ties almost 27 years ago and US interests in Iran are conducted via Switzerland.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16