After long denying any Al-Qaeda presence in the country. From AP, with thanks to Anthony:
Iran acknowledged for the first time Sunday it has convicted some Iranian nationals of supporting al-Qaeda, saying the number was fewer than five.
“A few pro-al-Qaeda 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 terror network or give any other details.
The United States has accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda operatives, with some U.S. counterterrorism officials alleging hard-line elements within the Iranian regime may have developed working relationships with some senior al-Qaeda officials who fled to Iran after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Iran has rejected the accusations.