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Iran says pullout of scholars is U.S. affair

TEHRAN, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Iran's foreign minister said on Monday the abrupt pullout of U.S. scholars from Tehran was an American affair that had nothing to do with official Iranian policy.

``I have no idea as to why they left, this is a question you should ask the Americans or the Swiss ambassador (who represents U.S. interests in Tehran),'' Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told Reuters.

``Their leaving had nothing to do with Iranian policy,'' Kharrazi said.

A group of 13 American academics working in Iran from institutions such as Yale, Tufts and the University of Pennsylvania were instructed by the Swiss embassy to leave Tehran on August 25, 10 days before their scheduled departure date.

Iran and the United States do not have diplomatic ties and the Swiss embassy in Tehran is in charge of U.S. interests. Swiss embassy diplomats were not immediately available for comment.

The Washington Post had reported that according to a member of the group, the Swiss ambassador told the students: ``My orders are to get you out as soon as possible, and that's what I'm going to do.''

U.S. officials confirmed that the scholars left Iran under ``sensitive'' circumstances, but declined to provide details.

The group, which arrived in Tehran on July 11, included historians, experts on Iranian literature and poetry, and scholars of post- revolutionary economics.

Their programmes in Iran were financed by the Iranian government and the American Institute for Iranian Studies which is supported by U.S. government funding.


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