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(photo credit: AP)
Four Iranians, including senior military officials, were detained by the US army in Iraq, The New York Times reported Monday.
According to senior Iraqi and American officials, the men were seized in two raids last week on suspicion of planning and conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces.
The spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon D. Johndroe, confirmed that two Iranian diplomats were among those detained in the raids, but would not identify them. The two had been invited to visit the country by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
"The president is unhappy about it," Talabani's media adviser, Hiwa Osman, said.
"We are continuing to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees," Johndroe stressed, confirming that the two diplomats were subsequently turned over to the Iraqis and released after showing papers proving they were allowed to work in Iraq.
Despite one official's report that "a lot of material" was seized under suspicion of being connected to planning the attacks, American officials stressed that the evidence was still being examined.
"We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities," Johndroe said.
The arrests came at a time of escalating tension between the US, Iran and Iraq, after the UN Security Council passed a resolution Saturday imposing mild sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.