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Iran Says Americans Attacked Last Week Were Businessmen

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The 13 U.S. "tourists" attacked by Islamic militants in Tehran last week were members of a business delegation exploring investment opportunities, Iran disclosed today.

Some of the Americans were injured when extremists chanting "Death to America," used stones and metal bars Saturday to smash the windows of their bus.

The attack followed reports in hard-line newspapers accusing the visitors of being members of the Central Intelligence Agency posing as tourists.

The United States denied any of the Americans were government officials or had links to the CIA. The group left Iran on Sunday.

The disclosure that the Americans were businessmen came from Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. Iranian officials previously described the Americans as tourists.

Asefi, who did not identify the Americans further, said they were allowed into Iran to increase pressure against U.S. sanctions that ban U.S. companies from investing in Iran.

"Iran will use all possible means to increase public awareness, as it welcomes the activities of foreign companies, including American companies, against the U.S. sanctions," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Asefi as saying.

But Asefi said that allowing the Americans into Iran did not soften the government's resolve against resuming diplomatic relations with the United States.

On Thursday, President Mohammad Khatami condemned the attack as "an affront to the honor of the Iranian people."

The Fedayeen Islam, a radical Muslim group largely dormant since Iran's Islamic revolution, claimed responsibility for the bus attack.

The United States severed diplomatic ties with Iran after Islamic militants took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran shortly after the 1979 revolution.

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