Iran to Open Consulate in Northern Iraq

Iran will open a consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil on Tuesday, Tehran’s third such office in the war-ravaged country, a senior Kurdish official said on Monday. “The Iranian consulate will be opened tomorrow officially,” said Falah Mustafa, director of foreign relations in the Kurdistan regional government, the autonomous Kurdish administration of northern Iraq.

There was no immediate confirmation from Tehran’s mission in Baghdad.

But on Sunday, Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Hassan Kazemi Qomi, the ambassador, as confirming the planned opening of the consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish administration of Iraq.

On January 11, five Iranian diplomats were kidnapped during a raid by US forces on Iran’s consulate general in Erbil. The missioners have not been allowed to have a meeting with their family members and relatives ever since their detention 10 months ago.

The Iranian consulate in Erbil has been closed ever since.

Despite US allegations that the building in Erbil was not a diplomatic center, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the raid had taken place at a “liaison office that offered consular services.”

The decision to open the consulate in northern Iraq comes after Iran closed its border with the region for two weeks in late September in protest at the detention of another Iranian by the US military.

The Americans claim that Mahmoud Farhadi was a military officer, but both Iran and the regional Kurdish government say Farhadi, who is still in US custody, is a businessman who was a member of a commercial delegation invited to visit Sulaimaniyah.

Tehran reopened the frontier after Iran said it would open two consulates in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, Kurdish officials had said. It was also agreed that Tehran would allow Iraq to open two consulates in the Iranian cities of Kermanshah and Orumiyeh.

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