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Israeli fencing team says Iran invited it to competition

January 12, 1997

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Israeli fencing team says it received an invitation from Iran _ a sworn enemy of the Jewish state _ to take part in an international fencing competition in Tehran.

The head of Israel’s fencing association, however, said he thought the invitation came only to meet International Federation of Fencing tournament rules that all members must invited to competitions.

``They did this so that they can fulfill their obligation,″ Moshe Ben-Ezra said Sunday. ``I don’t know how seriously they intended the invitation.″

The invitation on Iranian Fencing Federation stationery arrived Friday in an envelope from the international federation’s offices in Paris. It was signed by Mohammed Zadeh, vice-president of the Iranian federation.

An official in Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s office denied the Israeli team was invited.

``Iran does not recognize the existence of Israel, so how can we invite a non-existing entity?″ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ben-Ezra said the Israeli team would consult with Israel’s Foreign Ministry on how to respond. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the ministry would ``naturally have no objection″ to the Israeli team participating in the Feb. 12-14 contest.

But an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was ``not very likely″ the visas would be granted.

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