Sunday, April 17, 2005

Iran condemns hostage-taking of Shiites in Iraq

Iran on Sunday condemned Friday's hostage-taking of Shiite Muslims in Iraq, saying that Tehran is against any act against innocent and ordinary citizens.

"Such moves are carried out by people who oppose the restorationof stability and security to Iraq after the establishment of parliament and a new government in that country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-reza Asefi told reporters.

Asefi said that the incident might turn to be a pretext for prolonging the foreign military presence in Iraq, adding that such moves were against the will of the Iraqi people.

"These acts will just serve foreigners by proving that Iraqis are not able to maintain security in their country," Asefi said.

A group of armed men reportedly took more than 100 Shiites as hostage on Friday in the central Iraqi town of Madain, 30 km south of Baghdad, and threatened to kill them unless all of the Shiites leave the city.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi forces, backed by US troops, entered Madain and controlled half of the town and started search operations in an attempt to free hostages.