Sunday, January 07, 2007

Report: Arrested Iranians were senior intelligence officers

LONDON (AFP) - Five Iranians detained by US forces in Baghdad last month were senior intelligence officers engaged in a covert political mission to influence the Iraqi government, the BBC said.

"There were five senior officers in various intelligence organisations... It was a very significant meeting... These people have been collared, relatively speaking, up to no good," one unnamed British official told the broadcaster.

US forces detained 10 people on December 21 on suspicion of weapons smuggling after finding what they said were documents, maps, photographs and videos in a raid at pro-Iranian Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's compound.

Military commanders said the 10, two of whom were Iranian, were linked to "illegal activities," including potential attacks on coalition forces.

Three Iranian diplomats were detained in a vehicle in Baghdad the previous day but later released.

The BBC's flagship political programme Newsnight cited British authorities in Iraq as saying that while the arrests produced highly important intelligence information, there was no "smoking gun" about weapons supplies or attacks.

Instead, the Iranians were there to hold high-level meetings with representatives of several Iraqi Shiite factions that have come to prominence since the fall of president Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"There was discussion of whether the Maliki government would succeed, who should be in which ministerial jobs... It was a very significant meeting," one official said.

"The fact of who some of the Iranians were is very significant."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said later he had invited the two Iranians detained at Hakim's compound to Iraq as part of an agreement between Baghdad and Tehran to improve security.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

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