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Iran Protests US Military's Detention of 8 Iranians in Iraq


Iran has protested the U.S. military's detention in Iraq of eight Iranians who the U.S. military says were found with unauthorized weapons in their vehicles.

Iran lodged the complaint with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests. The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations.

The U.S. military said the Iranians, including two with diplomatic passports, were briefly detained for questioning and handed over to Iraqi officials this Wednesday morning.

It said four vehicles carrying the Iranians and seven Iraqis were stopped late Tuesday at a Baghdad checkpoint, and an assault rifle and two pistols were confiscated from the Iraqis.

It said the convoy was allowed to proceed to a nearby hotel. It said troops followed the convoy to the hotel, where they seized a laptop computer, cellular phones and a briefcase full of Iranian and American currency.

The military says the Iraqis were serving as a security escort for the Iranians and had identification but no weapons permit.

Earlier, the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad said those detained included an embassy staffer and six members of a delegation from Iran's Electricity Ministry.

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 U.S. has been holding five other Iranians detained by American forces in January in northern Iraq.

U.S. military officials say the five were helping militants in Iraq fight U.S. and Iraqi forces. Tehran says the men are diplomats and has demanded their release.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.