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Iran: Tehran Says It Will Not Hand Over Al-Qaeda Detainees

Tehran, 28 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iran today rejected a U.S. demand to hand over senior Al-Qaeda operatives in its custody. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi called the U.S. demands unacceptable. Asefi said Iran intends to try the prisoners in Iranian courts and punish them according to its laws, because their crimes were committed within Iran.

Asefi would not reveal the total number or the names of the Al-Qaeda suspects for security reasons. He said that Iran had provided the United Nations with details on 147 prisoners suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday said Iran needs to turn the operatives over to their countries of origin or to the United States for interrogation and trial.