updated 7/20/2004 7:41:38 PM ET 2004-07-20T23:41:38

Iran on Tuesday dismissed as “ridiculous” suggestions by the United States that it may have been involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

President Bush said Monday that the United States was exploring whether Iran had a role in the terrorist attacks, a scenario discounted by the CIA.

“The ridiculous thing is that the U.S. is making such an allegation, whereas it had trained the pilots and saboteurs involved in the terrorist attacks,” Hamid Reza Asefi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Asefi said Iran had clearly stated its position against al-Qaida. He said the implication that Iran was involved in the attack was part of a propaganda campaign by Washington ahead of the presidential election in November.

He reiterated comments he made Sunday that it was possible that al-Qaida elements could have illegally crossed into Iran. He said that did not mean Iran supported them.

A report by the independent commission investigating the attacks, which is to be released Thursday, suggests Iran may have facilitated the 2001 attacks by providing eight to 10 al-Qaida hijackers with safe passage to and from terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Iran has said it has arrested “a large number” of al-Qaida members and handed over more than 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives to their home countries, most of them from Saudi Arabia. Iranian officials have said some al-Qaida terror suspects would stand trial in Iranian courts because they committed crimes in Iran.

Washington accuses Tehran of harboring al-Qaida fugitives. U.S. counterterrorism officials have said a handful of senior al-Qaida operatives who fled to Iran after the war in Afghanistan may have developed a working relationship with a secretive military unit linked to Iran’s religious hard-liners. Iran has rejected the charges.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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