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Top Iran cleric accuses US of spreading lies to harm Saudi ties

TEHRAN, Oct 8 (AFP) - US accusations about a possible Iranian involvement in the 1996 bombing of a US military facility in Saudi Arabia are "baseless lies" intended to harm Tehran's ties with its Gulf neighbours, a top Iranian cleric charged Friday.

"The recent threats and baseless claims against the Islamic republic by the United States once again reflect their aggressive policy towards Islam and Iran," said Ayatollah Hassan Taheri-Khoramabadi in his keynote sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers here.

"These (accusations) are repetitious and far from reality, and are aimed at creating tension among the Muslim countries and people of the region," Khoramabadi said.

His comments followed the announcement by US officials Tuesday that Washington was still investigating a possible Iranian involvement in the June 25, 1996, bombing of a US air force housing complex near Dhahran in eastern Saudi Arabia which killed 19 US servicemen.

"With respect to the issue of Iranian government officials, we are investigating -- and this is a key word -- information that Iranian government officials were involved," US State Department spokesman James Rubin said Tuesday.

"We do have specific information with respect to the involvement of Iranian government officials.

We have not reached a conclusion about the specific individuals, or about the question of whether ... this terrorism was sponsored by Iran itself," he said.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi on Wednesday rejected Rubin's remarks as "baseless" claims which are "aimed at sowing discord in the region."


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