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Baghdad shooting injures 4 Iran Embassy staffers

Iraqi soldiers targeted the foreigners' vehicles after coming under fire themselves, police say.

May 16, 2008|Tina Susman and Saif Rasheed | Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — Four Iranian Embassy employees were shot and wounded, two of them seriously, as they drove in northwest Baghdad on Thursday night, Iranian and Iraqi officials said.

The reason for the shooting was unclear. It came as the Iraqi and Iranian governments spar over allegations of Iranian aid to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq.

A spokesman for the embassy, Manouchehr Tasleem, played down the possibility of diplomatic repercussions from the incident. However, he suggested that the Iranians, all of them administrative employees, might have been targeted for political purposes.

"We don't have any official reasons" for the shooting, Tasleem said, "but there are many different parties, many different groups who do not like the relationship between Iran and Iraq.

"This kind of incident can't destroy the good relations between Iran and Iraq," he said.

Police said Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint opened fire on two SUVs carrying the Iranians after coming under fire themselves. The Iranians said they were on their way to dinner, according to the police report, though Tasleem said the men were heading to a Shiite shrine in the northwestern neighborhood of Kadhimiya.

Many foreign diplomats, embassies and their staffers have been targets of violence in Iraq. But the country's delicate relationship with Iran makes incidents involving Iranians especially sensitive.

The United States accuses Iran of providing weapons, aid and training to Shiite militiamen fighting American and Iraqi forces. It has stepped up the accusations since fighting erupted in late March between militia fighters and Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Iraq also has said it believes Iran is meddling in the violence, though Iraqi officials have not been as vocal in the complaints as their U.S. counterparts. Iran denies involvement.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

A special correspondent in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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