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Iraq asks Iran about 3 detained Americans

BAGHDAD — Iraq has appealed to Iran for information about the detention of three Americans who crossed the border while hiking in the Kurdish north, the foreign minister said Saturday.

The request came as the three entered their second week in captivity facing the possibility of an investigation on spying charges despite the insistence of U.S. and Kurdish authorities that they accidentally went astray.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he raised the issue Thursday during a meeting with Iran's ambassador to Iraq.

"He did confirm that they have been arrested for entering the country without proper visas and they are now being interviewed to determine more details," Zebari said.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, promised to pass the request for more information to his government, Zebari said.

Iranian lawmakers were scheduled to discuss the case today during the weekly meeting of Parliament's foreign policy committee, according to Press TV.

Iranian border guards detained freelance journalist Shane Bauer, Sara Shourd and Josh Fattal on July 31 while they were hiking near a waterfall on a mountain in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region.

A prominent Iranian lawmaker and member of Parliament's National Security Committee has rejected the suggestion the Americans were tourists and said authorities were investigating whether to charge them with espionage.

"Surely we can say that they came as spies," Mohammed Karim Abedi, a hard-line lawmaker, said last week on Iran's state-run Al-Alam TV. "The concerned authorities will decide whether they were spies or not. If it is proven that they were spies, the necessary legal procedures will be sought against them."

The U.S. State Department has dismissed the spying allegations.

Deaths last week

As of Saturday, 4,331 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war. Identifications as reported by the military and not previously published:

Army Staff Sgt. Johnny R. Polk, 39, Gulfport, Miss.; explosion July 25; Kirkuk.

Army Pvt. Keiffer P. Wilhelm, 19, Plymouth, Ohio; noncombat incident Tuesday; Maysan province.

Iraq asks Iran about 3 detained Americans 08/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 11:30pm]
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