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Iran fencers leave U.S. in fingerprint row

TEHRAN, April 16 (Reuters) - Iran's junior fencing team pulled out of the world championships in the United States and were on their way home after immigration officials sought to fingerprint all team members, the official IRNA news agency said on Sunday.

``The public relations department at the physical education organisation said Iran's youth and junior fencing team refused to take protest a move by Chicago airport officials to have them fingerprinted,'' IRNA said.

It said the 12-member team then left for Turkey, en route back to Iran. They were expected to arrive home on Monday.

Iran has bristled at enforcement against sports teams, scholars and clerical delegations of an FBI policy to fingerprint arriving nationals from Iran, Sudan and other countries accused by Washington of links to terrorism -- charges Iran denies.

Last January's soccer rematch between Iran and the United States only went forward after U.S. officials agreed to waive the fingerprinting.

The match, which followed Iran's 1998 win over the United States in the World Cup in France, marked the first time America had hosted Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The politically-charged World Cup match, for which both teams were later given the FIFA Fair Play Award, was the first top-level sporting contact between the countries since they broke diplomatic ties after the revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.


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