US Troops Release Seven Iranians Held in Iraqi Capital

A02207012.jpgThe Iranian embassy in Baghdad says US troops have freed seven Iranians hours after detaining them at a hotel in the Iraqi capital. An embassy official said the men were handed over to Iraqi authorities early Wednesday morning.

American troops raided Baghdad’s Sheraton hotel late Tuesday and seized the Iranians. Video footage also showed soldiers leaving the hotel with what appeared to be luggage and a laptop computer bag.

The Iranian embassy said those detained included an embassy staffer and six members of a delegation from Iran’s Electricity Ministry.

Earlier Tuesday, President Bush criticized Iranian interference in Iraq and authorized U.S. military commanders to confront what he described as Iran’s “murderous activities.”

Iran denies supporting insurgents in Iraq.

The US has been holding five other Iranians kidnapped during a raid by American forces on Iran’s consulate general in January in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a power vacuum is emerging in Iraq and that his government is ready to fill the gap with the help of neighboring states.

Mr. Ahmadinejad pointed to what he called the rapidly declining political power of “the occupiers,” an apparent reference to the United States.

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