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DEMAND FOR IRANIAN'S RELEASE: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani demanded the immediate release of an Iranian official detained Thursday by U.S. forces in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. The U.S. military said the unidentified Iranian was a member of the Quds force -- an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards accused of arming and training Shiite militias in Iraq.

A statement issued Saturday by Talabani's office said the arrest was carried out without the prior knowledge or the cooperation of the Kurdish regional government.

"This amounts to an insult and a violation of its rights and authority," said the statement, quoting a letter Talabani sent to Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Talabani, a Kurd, is one of the United States' most reliable partners in Iraq. Talabani said Iran had threatened to close the border with the Kurdish region if the official were not freed -- a serious blow to the economy in the president's political stronghold.

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations will open a new office in Baghdad to encourage cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors as part of the world body's efforts to expand its presence in Iraq, the U.N. secretary-general said today.

But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped "more would be done" to improve Baghdad's security as the U.N. builds its presence, which has been greatly reduced since an Aug. 19, 2003, bombing at its Baghdad headquarters that killed 22 people.

U.S. DEATHS

* Army Pfc. Luigi Marciante Jr., 25, Elizabeth, N.J.; died Thursday in Muqdadiyah of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Lewis, Wash.

* Army Spc. John J. Young, 24, Savannah, Ga.; died Friday in Camp Stryker of injuries suffered from a noncombat-related incident; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

* Army Capt. (Dr.) Roselle M. Hoffmaster, 32, Cleveland, Ohio; died Thursday in Kirkuk, of injuries suffered from a noncombat incident; assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

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