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Iran Rejects Report That It's Holding Al Qaeda's Chief Spokesman

Iran has not identified several Al Qaeda (search) members in its custody, but it has determined that the suspects were not linked to recent suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia, the foreign minister said Friday.

Earlier, Iran's vice president denied a report that the Islamic nation was holding a top official in Usama bin Laden (search)'s terrorist network.

"Several Al Qaeda members are currently in our custody and are being interrogated by security officials," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said at a news conference. "As soon we recognize who they are we will announce it."

Kharrazi did not say how many people were in custody but told reporters they had been arrested before the May 12 suicide bombings on foreign housing complexes in Riyadh (search) that killed 34 people.

"All these people were arrested before the explosions in Riyadh," Kharrazi said. "Therefore allegations that the Riyadh blasts had been planned by these people are baseless."

Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Iran of harboring senior Al Qaeda members.

U.S. officials also have said intelligence reports suggest that Al Qaeda operatives in Iran had a role in the Riyadh bombings, and Saudi Arabia said it will seek the extradition of any Saudi among the suspects in Iran.

Kharrazi said Iran -- which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan -- was "serious in fighting Al Qaeda" and has arrested and extradited numerous Al Qaeda members to their countries.

"Our fight against terrorism is not new. We have been fighting for a long time, before the Sept. 11 attacks and before the U.S. war in Afghanistan," he said.

Vice President Muhammad Ali Abtahi, who is responsible for legal and parliamentary affairs, also rejected a report in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that Iran had arrested Suleiman Abu Ghaith, Al Qaeda's Kuwaiti-born spokesman.

The Saudi-owned paper cited unidentified Iranian and Kuwaiti sources but did not give more details in the report that appeared Friday.

Abu Ghaith, a former teacher and mosque preacher in Kuwait, became prominent after America attacked the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in October 2001. He was seen in video tapes sitting in bin Laden's company warning of more attacks like Sept. 11.

"I categorically reject that Asharq al-Awsat report that Suleiman Abu Ghaith is in our custody," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told The Associated Press.

Asefi said Iran has not identified any of its Al Qaeda detainees, but he did not explain how he was sure that Abu Ghaith was not among them.

Asefi has reversed himself before on the identity issue, conceding Thursday that senior Al Qaeda members might be among those in detention. On Monday he said the detainees did not include senior members.