The State Department report, issued yesterday, says Iran continues to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy, most notably in anti-Israeli activities.
The report says Iran provided funding, safe haven, training, and weapons for Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told reporters of a range of alleged pro-terrorist activities by the Iranian regime.
"Iran and Syria are of special concern for their direct, open and prominent role in sponsoring Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups, for their unhelpful actions in Iraq, and, in Iran's case, the unwillingness to bring to justice senior Al-Qaeda members detained in 2003."
Iran in the past has not denied offering moral and political support to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, but has said it did not provide material aid to them. It regularly accuses Washington of sponsoring state terrorism by Israel against Palestinians.
In addition to Iran and Syria, the countries on the U.S. terrorism list are Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Libya. The State Department report says Sudan and Libya would remain on the list despite taking "significant steps" to cooperate in the global war on terrorism in 2004. Iraq was dropped from the list in October.
The list requires the U.S. government to control sales of items with military and civilian applications, limits U.S. aid, and requires Washington to vote against loans from international financial institutions.
Overall in 2004, Zelikow cited improving international cooperation on counterterrorism measures and said "we are winning the war on terrorism." But he warned against complacency and noted the attacks in Beslan, Russia, and Madrid highlight the struggles that remain.
"Terrorism remains a global threat from which no nation is immune, despite ongoing improvements in U.S. homeland security, our campaigns against insurgents and terrorists, and the deepening counterterrorism cooperation among the nations of the world, international terrorism continued to pose a significant threat to the United States and its partners in 2004," Zelikow said.
This year's report was released amid controversy over allegations the State Department planned to exclude statistics to avoid criticism of the effectiveness of antiterror measures.
The administration decided that the new National Counterterrorism Center would release the statistics. The center said there were 651 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2004 that killed 1,907 people. That compares with State Department figures announced in 2004 showing 208 attacks that caused 625 deaths in 2003.
In Iraq, a comparison of the figures shows 22 terrorist incidents in 2003 increased to 201 in 2004 and the number of killed rose from 117 in 2003 to 554 in 2004.
But U.S. officials said the increase is mainly due to more thorough methods used to compile data on terrorist attacks.
The acting director of the counterterrorism center, John Brennan, told reporters it is incorrect to measure two sets of figures compiled through much different means.
"It does not necessarily represent a sharp increase in the number of terrorist attacks," Brennan said. "What's the sharp increase is in the number of incidents being reported now annually, as a result of much more rigorous research and identification of all these incidents."
The report said that Al-Qaeda remained the primary terrorist threat to the United States despite success in arresting several top leaders and weakening its operational capability.
[The full State Department report is available at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/45313.pdf]