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Iranian diplomats visit 5 compatriots held in Iraq by U.S. military

BAGHDAD — BAGHDAD -- Despite continuing high tensions between the U.S. and Iran, five Iranians who have been held by the U.S. military in Iraq since January received their first visit from Iranian diplomats yesterday.

The meeting took place at a U.S. military facility in or around Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the Los Angeles Times.

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"We've been working on this for quite some time, to organize a consular visit for the Iranian Embassy to visit their detainees with the U.S. military," Zebari said.

"I think it's a good gesture."

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The five Iranians were picked up in a Jan. 11 raid in the Kurdish city of Irbil.

Iran said at the time that the five worked at a liaison office that it was seeking to upgrade to a consulate.

U.S. officials said the five did not identify themselves as diplomats when they were detained and did not have diplomatic credentials.

The U.S. military said that the five belonged to the Quds Force, the covert international arm of the Islamic republic's Revolutionary Guard. Iran has insisted that the five are diplomats.

Some U.S. and Iraqi officials said last month that the five could be released soon. But until yesterday, the Americans had refused Iran's request to see the prisoners. Zebari said Iraq had been working to arrange the meeting since March.



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