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Iran closing checkpoint to travelers

February 08, 2007|From the Associated Press

TEHRAN — Iran said Wednesday that it would temporarily bar travelers from a border crossing with Iraq, a day after two suspected Al Qaeda members were detained as they entered at the checkpoint, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iran provided no details on the two detainees.

The U.S. accuses Iran of harboring fugitives belonging to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. But Iran says it has made a significant contribution to the war on terrorism by arresting operatives from the group.

The checkpoint at Mehran, about 100 miles east of Baghdad, will be closed for four days to individual travelers starting today, the news agency quoted the Iranian town's governor, Khaled Rahimi, as saying. It will remain open to commercial transport.

Most of the people passing through are Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iran and Iraq, traveling to holy sites in the two countries. More than 5,000 people are believed to pass through the border point daily.

"The transit of pilgrims will be banned for four days ... after both the Iraqi and Iranian side agreed on it," Rahimi said.

Iran says it has repatriated more than 500 suspected Al Qaeda operatives, most of them to Saudi Arabia.

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