US raids Iranian consulate in Iraq


US forces stormed an Iranian consular office in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil early today and arrested five people, including diplomats and staff, Iranian officials said.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:

The US military made no direct mention of Iranians but in answer to a query issued a statement saying six "individuals" were arrested during "routine" operations in the area.

As the overnight raid was in progress, President George W Bush was vowing in a keynote address on American television to disrupt what he called the "flow of support" from Iran and Syria for insurgent attacks on US forces in Iraq.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini condemned the raid - the second such operation in the past month as tensions between Washington and Tehran have mounted - and said it was a violation of international law.

"The activity of all those people at our office in Arbil was legal and was in cooperation with and had the approval of the Iraqi side," Hosseini told Iran's state-owned Arabic language satellite channel Al-Alam.

"There is no justification for this behaviour of the Americans, particularly because Iraqi officials were not informed about this move."

In a statement, the US military said it had detained six people around Arbil on suspicion of being "closely tied to activities targeting Iraqi and coalition forces".

"This operation was part of an ongoing effort by coalition forces targeting individuals involved in activities aimed at the killing of Iraqi citizens and Coalition forces," it said, adding the suspects surrendered without incident.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while not commenting on the operation in Arbil, told Fox News: "The president made very clear last night that we know that Iran is engaged in activities that are endangering our troops, activities that are destabilising the young Iraqi government and that we're going to pursue those who may be involved in those activities."