updated 12/12/2004 8:00:16 AM ET 2004-12-12T13:00:16

Iran acknowledged for the first time Sunday it has convicted some Iranian nationals of supporting al-Qaida, saying the number was fewer than five.

“A few pro-al-Qaida Iranian nationals have been tried and convicted,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters at his weekly press briefing.

Their number, he said, is less than “the fingers on one’s hand,” he was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying.

He did not say when they were convicted, what sentences they had received, what sort of support they had provided Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network or give any other details.

The United States has accused Iran of harboring al-Qaida operatives, a charge the Iranian government denies.

Asefi said cases of foreign nationals in Iran with alleged links to al-Qaida are still under investigation and no trial dates have been set, IRNA reported.

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