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Iranian wrestlers to boycott championships

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's national wrestling team will boycott the world freestyle championships in New York because of a U.S. Defense Department decision to fingerprint all participants.

"The Americans insisted that fingerprinting would be enforced, so we decided not to go," Iranian Wrestling Federation official Javad Rofougar said Tuesday. "We wanted to attend the games, and the Americans also wanted us to be there because Iran is one of the most powerful world wrestling teams."

Rofougar said that his country finds the fingerprinting procedure to be "humiliating and insulting to our identity."

The Iranian federation also sent a letter to FILA, the world wrestling governing body, asking it to move the venue if the United States wanted to fingerprint athletes.

On Monday, USA Wrestling spokesman John Fuller said the world body has not sent a response to the Iranians.

A State Department official said Monday that they are aware that the Iranians find fingerprinting and picture-taking to be humiliating, but that the tightened procedures are required because of security concerns.

Iranians, as well as Iraqis, Libyans and Sudanese, long have been subjected to fingerprinting and photographing on arrival in the United States. Several other countries were added to the list after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The world championships were scheduled to be held in New York later in September that year, but were moved because of the attacks.

Last September, the U.S. team decided not to send its athletes to the freestyle world championships in Iran after threats were made on the team. The decision came after the State Department called USA Wrestling to warn of an unspecified threat.

The 2003 world championships, set for Sept. 12-14 at Madison Square Garden, are one of four qualifiers for the 2004 Athens Olympics.