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CIA Tortured Me, Iranian Diplomat Says

Reuters staff

TEHRAN - An Iranian diplomat freed two months after being kidnapped in Iraq has said he was tortured by U.S. forces while in captivity, Iran's Fars News Agency reported today.Iran has previously blamed the U.S. military for his abduction but U.S. officials have denied any role. Today the U.S. military again denied playing any part in kidnapping the diplomat, or in his alleged torture.

The Iranian's comments follow the release of 15 British troops from Iran, where they say they were ill-treated.

"Jalal Sharafi, in an interview with Fars, explained how he had been kidnapped and tortured severely by American forces with the help of (Iraqi) agents ... under the supervision of the CIA," Fars News Agency reported.

"He showed reporters the marks left by torture on his body that are now being treated by doctors," said Fars, which is considered close to Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped Sharafi in February. An Iraqi government official said at the time Sharafi had been seized by 30 gunmen wearing the uniforms of an Iraqi army unit that often works with the U.S. military in Iraq.

When Sharafi was released on Tuesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said the diplomat was in good health and said he did not know who had held him.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver said in Baghdad: "Multi-National Force Iraq was not involved in his kidnapping or any kind of claims of torture that he is now stating that he was subjected to."

U.S. forces in Iraq have arrested a number of Iranians, including five men detained in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil and who Washington said had links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and were helping Iraqi militants.

Iran denies the charge, says they are diplomats and has demanded they be freed. It has also said it is still waiting for a reply to its request for consular access to the five. Washington says it is considering the request.

Iran, Britain and the United States insist there is no link between the release of the 15 British sailors and marines after 13 days' detention and the cases of Iranians held in Iraq.

Some analysts say the Revolutionary Guards who seized the 15 Britons may have been acting partly to send a message that Iran would not sit idle while its citizens were detained in Iraq.

While in captivity the Britons told Iranian television they were being treated well, but on return to Britain said they faced "constant psychological pressure". Britain insists they were in Iraqi waters when seized.

Sharafi said he was abducted by agents with identification cards from Iraq's Defence Ministry and who were driving U.S. military cars. He said he was taken to a base near Baghdad Airport where he was questioned in Arabic and English, Fars reported.

"Questions asked by CIA agents were about the presence and influence of Iran in Iraq. They asked questions about the amount of aid Iran provided to the government of (Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki, Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish groups," he said.

"When they were faced with my answers about the official relationship of Iran with the Iraqi government and officials they increased the tortures, many days they tortured me day and night," he said.

Fars quoted him as saying his interrogators also "tried to encourage me to cooperate with them by showing a soft face".

Similar comments were carried by Iran's IRNA news agency.

© Reuters 2007

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