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Iran rebuffs U.S. over Saudi bombing case

TEHRAN, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Iran has rebuffed a request from U.S. President Bill Clinton to help solve the 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American servicemen, saying it was an internal matter for the Saudi authorities.

In remarks to U.S. journalists in New York on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi also denied any Iranian involvement in the blast that rocked a U.S. military complex in Saudi Arabia.

``The issue is an internal issue of Saudi Arabia and the IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) has nothing to do with the case,'' Kharrazi said in remarks reported by the English-language Iran News daily.

``The exchange of views between the two sides by itself is not a new development,'' Kharrazi said.

Clinton last month sent a secret letter to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami seeking cooperation in the investigation into the bombing, sources familiar with the matter said in Washington last week.

The White House confirmed that Clinton sent a letter but refused to give details.

Varying reports of a high-level letter from Washington have been circulating in the Iranian press, but the Washington Post last week said the note held out the prospects of better relations if Iran helped U.S. investigators find the culprits in the bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex.

The Post quoted a Clinton administration official as saying the letter put the request for cooperation in the context of ``the overall relationship'' with Iran and was not part of a larger diplomatic initiative.

However, Kharrazi made it clear that Tehran was still looking for what it calls concrete steps of good will toward the Islamic republic.

``The paradoxical behaviour of the U.S. government in showing interest to re-establish bilateral ties while threatening Iranian security and economic interests is a source of disbelief among a majority of Iranian people who think there is a lack of political will and good intention on the U.S. side,'' said the minister, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

Kharrazi cited continued economic sanctions, pressure on third countries not to invest in Iran, and the allocation by the U.S. Congress of funds to topple the Iranian government.

Iran and the United States broke diplomatic ties after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by militant students. A series of sporting, cultural and academic contacts followed a call last year from Khatami for improved relations but tentative moves for better official ties have gone no where.


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