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Jordan’s government has asked Iran to turn over top al-Qaida terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but Tehran has refused.

A Jordanian government source told the Arabic newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat last week that Iranian security authorities refused Amman’s appeal for Zarqawi, who is believed to be under the protection of the Iranian government.

Zarqawi is in charge of external operations for al-Qaida. He is wanted by Jordan for terrorist activities, including the murder last year of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley.

The Iranians refused the Jordanian request for Zarqawi, claiming he held a Syrian passport. The Jordanians believe the passport is forged.

According to the newspaper, Zarqawi sought asylum with the Iraqi Ansar al Islam group after fleeing Afghanistan following the December 2001 fall of the Taliban.

Zarqawi left Iraq and went to Iran where he was “arrested.”

U.S. intelligence officials have said Zarqawi, an associate of Osama Bin Laden, is likely to be under the protection of Iranian intelligence and security officials.

The U.S. government has used a friendly Mideast government to approach the Iranians about turning over Zarqawi, officials said. He is wanted by the FBI for his role in the Foley assassination in Amman last October.

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