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UK's Cook presses Iran on Jewish prisoners

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 15 (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook raised the fate of 10 Iranian Jews jailed for alleged spying for Israel with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Friday, British officials said.

``On the Shiraz detainees, the foreign secretary pressed for an early and successful outcome to their appeal,'' an official said, adding that Kharrazi had ``registered'' the message.

Kharrazi declined comment after the hour-long meeting. President Mohammad Khatami told reporters in New York last week that the government could not interfere in the workings of the independent judiciary, dominated by his conservative rivals.

A revolutionary court in Shiraz sentenced the 10 Jews and two alleged Moslem collaborators to jail sentences of two to 13 years in July for spying for Israel after a secret trial condemned by Western governments and human rights organisations as a travesty of justice.

Three Jews and two Moslems were acquitted and the case remains open against at least four Moslems.

Cook has twice postponed a planned first visit to Iran this year, officially because of scheduling problems but unofficially because of Jews' case, diplomats said.

The officials said Cook and Kharrazi also discussed the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, which Iran outspokenly opposes.

They quoted Kharrazi as saying Tehran would not support the peace process but would also not block it.

Cook voiced support for Iran's efforts to fight drug trafficking and offered 500,000 pounds ($700,000) in financial assistance for the effort.


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