Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Boston.com / News / World / Iran condemns assassination of its pilgrimage official in Iraq

Boston.com / News / World / Iran condemns assassination of its pilgrimage official in Iraq: "Iran condemns assassination of its pilgrimage official in Iraq
By Associated Press, 9/15/2004 17:24

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran condemned the killing of one of its civil servants in Iraq and demanded that the Iraqi government punish those responsible, state television reported on Wednesday.

Unidentified assailants killed Labib Mohammadi of Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization near the central Iraqi city of Karbala, state television said in a report carried on its Web site. It did not say when Mohammadi was killed or give further details.

''The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly condemns the assassination ... and demands that the interim Iraqi government work seriously to identify and punish those behind this criminal act,'' the television report quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying.

The Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi charge d'affaires on Wednesday to protest the killing, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iran, a Shiite Muslim country, has close ties to Iraq's majority Shiite population. Iranian pilgrims regularly travel to Iraq to visit Shiite Islamic shrines in Karbala and Najaf.

Tehran was happy to see the fall of Saddam Hussein, whom it blamed for the 1980-88 war with Iran, but it opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Iran now fears the United States is cementing its influence in Iraq, on its western border, and in Afghanistan, on its eastern border.

Foreign Ministry official Seyyed Rasul Mohajer criticized the lack of security for Iranians in Iraq and called for measures to rectify the situation, IRNA said.

Iraqi militant groups have taken several Iranian journalists and diplomats hostage in recent months. Most were released.

However, Faridoun Jihani, the Iranian consul in Karbala, was kidnapped while traveling between Baghdad and Karbala in early August and has not been freed. His kidnappers use the name ''Islamic Army in Iraq.'' "

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