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State Department ‘Strongly Objects’ to Iraq’s Release of Hezbollah Leader

WATHIQ KHUZAIE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Friday that the United States “strongly objects” to Iraq’s decision to release Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq. Her remarks followed Senator McCain’s earlier comments, calling the action an “outrage,” and questioning whether the United States needs to rethink its alliance with Iraq.

U.S. officials believe Daqduq played a role in a 2007 kidnapping which resulted in the death of five soldiers. He was under U.S. custody until December of last year, when Iraq refused to extradite him, but gave assurances that he would remain in prison.  Nuland was uncharacteristically blunt about the nature of the conversation between U.S. and Iraqi officials over his release.

“We didn't want it to happen, and we were concerned about it. We said that to the Iraqis. They have said back to us that they didn't have a legal basis to continue to hold him,” she said.

She also had a warning for Daqduq, who is now believed to be heading to Lebanon.

“Let me add to that that as with other terrorists who we believe have committed crimes against Americans, we are going to continue to pursue all legal means to see that Daqduq sees justice for the crimes of which he is accused,” she said refusing to characterize exactly what those “legal means” would entail.

She also did not confirm or deny that the United States would take some type of retaliatory action against Iraq, a country America has spent billions of dollars rebuilding following the fall of Saddam Hussein, for the decision. However, Nuland maintained that despite the administration’s “deep dissatisfaction” with the Daqduq situation, the long-term relationship between the United States and Iraq remains stable.

“There are many, many things that we work together with the Iraqis on, both in terms of the internal situation in Iraq as well as our regional work together, not least being Syria and our efforts to ensure that Iraqi air and land space is not abused to arm the Syrians. There are many things that we work together on. But as I said, you know, we objected very strongly to this particular decision, and we've made that clear to the Iraqis.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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