Wednesday, September 29, 2004 "Diplomat released by Iraq kidnappers back in Iran

TEHRAN : An Iranian diplomat freed after a 55-day ordeal as a hostage in Iraq returned home, with the Islamic republic reiterating that no deal had been made with his kidnappers.

"At first I was badly treated, but then their conduct towards me changed," Fereydun Jahani was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi confirmed Jahani had been held by a group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq, but insisted that "no deal was made" in order to have the envoy released.

Jahani went missing on August 4 on the road from Baghdad to the Shiite pilgrimage city of Karbala, where he had been appointed to open an Iranian consulate.

The Islamic Army of Iraq said on August 8 that it had detained Jahani "for stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties".

The group then demanded Iran release Iraqis allegedly held since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

Tehran said it had freed all the POWs, as confirmed by international organisations, and officials here have said the kidnappers were "convinced" by the response as well as denials of Iranian meddling in Iraq.

The same Iraqi group is believed to be holding French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who went missing along with their Syrian driver on August 20."


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