WASHINGTON (Reuters) -In a move likely to irritate Tehran, the government has decided not to release five Iranians captured in Iraq, a newspaper reported on Friday.
The Washington Post said that after intense internal debate, the Bush administration had decided to keep the Iranians in custody and make them go through a periodic six-month review process used for the other 250 foreign detainees held in Iraq.
The next review is not expected until July, the newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying.
Washington says the five, seized in a January 11 raid by U.S. forces in the Kurdish city of Arbil, are linked with Iranian Revolutionary Guard networks involved in providing explosive devices used to attack U.S. troops in Iraq. Iran says they are diplomats and has demanded their release.
The Post said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had wanted to free the men because she judged them no longer useful but went along with the decision to retain them in custody that was strongly supported by Vice President Dick Cheney.