US releases five Iranian officials in northern Iraq

The US on Thursday freed released five Iranian officials who were detained in January 2007 in northern Iraq on suspicion of aiding Shi'ite Iraqi terrorists, Iranian and Iraqi officials said. Iranian embassy spokesman Amir Arshadi said the Iranian detainees had been handed over to Iraqi authorities, and that the embassy expected to receive them later in the day. His comments were confirmed by Yassin Majid, media adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. There was no immediate comment from US authorities, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi confirmed the report on state television, saying "the hostages are in the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a meeting." Qashqavi, who called the five men "diplomats," said they called the Iranian embassy in Baghdad and their families in Iran to say they were doing well.