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Iran Rebukes U.S. for Meddling

August 20, 1999

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ A U.S. call for the release of 13 Jews accused of spying drew a rebuke Thursday from the government _ the United States should stop meddling in Iran’s domestic affairs.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the U.S. statements go against ``international norms and rules,″ the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

``It is as though Iran asks the U.S. to release, before trial, all those who are arrested in the U.S. on espionage charges,″ the agency, monitored in Dubai, quoted Asefi as saying.

Those accused of espionage will get justice, he said.

``There will be no religion-based discrimination,″ IRNA quoted him as saying.

The Jews are expected to stand trial soon on charges of spying for Israel and the United States.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin urged the Iranian government to release the suspects, saying none had been involved in espionage on behalf of the United States. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has said those arrested have never had contact with Israeli intelligence agencies.

Asked Thursday about Iran’s response, Rubin said the United States continued to hold the view that the allegations against the Jews are ``without foundation.″

Rubin called on Iran ``to uphold its stated commitment to protect the rights of all religious and ethnic minorities by releasing these individuals and ensuring that no harm comes to them.″ None of the 13 arrested in March has had access to counsel, he said.

Rubin said the United States remains open to a dialogue with Iran that would ``be conducted without pre-conditions on either side.″ But he said the United States has concerns about human rights in Iran, its opposition to the Middle East peace process and attempts to acquire weapons of mass desgtruction.

Iranian Jews numbered about 80,000 before the 1979 Islamic revolution. About 25,000 remain today. Those who remain are allowed to practice aspects of their religion but are forbidden to teach Hebrew, the liturgical language.

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