Iran reopened two consulates on Tuesday in the cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah in Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region, which were closed following a U.S. troops raid the one in Arbil and took five Iranians in January, the Iraqi National News Agency (NINA) reported.
Iraqi Kurdish regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad Hassan Kazemi Qomi inaugurated the consulate office in Arbil, NINA reported on Tuesday.
"The two consulates will offer facilities for citizens of the region wishing to visit Iran and develop trade relations between the two countries," Barzani was quoted as saying in his speech during the reopening ceremony.
"We used to have two consulates in Arbil and Sulaimaniya but unfortunately the U.S. forces arrested five personnel from our consulate in Arbil who are still under custody," said Qomi, who termed the U.S. arrests as "illegal and violation to the Iraqi sovereignty."
U.S. forces accused the five Iranians of being members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force. Iran said the five were diplomats working in Iraq.
Later in the day, a U.S. military spokesman said the American military will release nine Iranians detained in recent months in Iraq, including two of the five captured in January in Arbil.
"It is our intent to release nine Iranians, currently in custody, in the near future," U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, director of the Multi-National Force-Iraq's communications division, told a news conference in Baghdad's GreenZone.
"Two of the nine were detained in Arbil in January of this year," he said, adding that the other seven were arrested at various occasions in others areas of Iraq.
Previously, U.S. officials accused Iran of training Shiite militias in Iraq and supplying them with weapons, including armored piercing roadside bombs, but Iran denies all the accusations.