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Iran Probes Cases of al-Qaida Detainees - 2003-07-28

Iran says it is still investigating the cases of detained al-Qaida members and will not decide their fate until the probe is complete.

Iran admitted for the first time last week that it was holding prominent members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, but officials did not identify them.

Authorities have denied persistent media reports that two of the detainees are Osama bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that the detainees would be either extradited to their home countries, expelled to countries they had come from, or prosecuted in Iran.

The expulsion and extradition options have reportedly been complicated by the fact that some Arab governments have stripped al-Qaida figures of their nationalities.

In other developments, the Foreign Ministry warned Iranian citizens not to travel to Iraq for religious pilgrimages or other reasons until calm is restored in that country. A number of Iranians have been reported killed recently in Iraq.