Hosseini told a news conference: "Americans should immediately release the five Iranians and pay compensation for the damages they caused to our office in Arbil.

 

"What they were doing was consular work. These were employees who were doing their job according to the rules.

 

"What the Americans claim is incorrect. They want to create a climate that justifies their illegal action," he added.

 

US allegation

 

The US military said in a statement earlier on Sunday that "preliminary results revealed the five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organisation known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilise the government of Iraq and attack coalition forces,

 

"Americans want to radicalise the atmosphere in Iraq to justify their occupation, but we will act wisely"

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman

"The multinational force, in keeping with US policy, will continue to disrupt logistical support to extremists that originate from outside Iraq," the statement said.

 

The US has repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in neighbouring Iraq, including providing weapons and training to Shia armed groups.

 

US military officials and Iranian exiles also claim that there is increasing evidence that many of the most sophisticated roadside bombs being used against US and Iraqi troops are produced in Iran.
 

The raid came after a warning by George Bush, the US president, that the United States would crack down on alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq, where US commanders accuse Tehran of inciting attacks against American targets.

  

Tehran vehemently denies the charges and blames US troops for the violence and for stoking tensions between Iraq's Shia and Sunni Muslims.

   

"Americans want to radicalise the atmosphere in Iraq to justify their occupation, but we will act wisely," Hosseini said.


Reconciliation and unity
 

A new US strategy in Iraq has been received with skepticism in the Arab world.


Egypt and Saudi Arabia have warned that reconciliation and national unity in Iraq are necessary for the success of Bush's new plan.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf countries - all dominated by Sunni Muslims - are increasingly suspicious of al-Maliki's government and worry about the influence of Iran.
 
Some fear that the Shia-led government is sidelining Iraq's Sunni minority.

Suleiman Awaad, the Egyptian presidential spokesman, told reporters on Saturday that Egypt wants "everybody to comprehend ... that a national reconciliation is the necessary condition and obligation for this process to succeed".

A change in US policy toward Iraq was inevitable, Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, said.

"Unity of Iraq is necessary, independence of Iraq is necessary and peace in Iraq is necessary," he said.
 
"None of these have been achieved so far. There must be a change, of course."

The comments were the first official response by the two powers to Bush's call on moderate Arab countries to step up their support for the Iraqi government.

Source: Agencies