Iran 'Getting Close' to Trial of Al Qaeda Suspects
Wed Jun 16, 2004 06:05 AM ET
By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran is close to putting on trial a group of al Qaeda members it suspects of plotting terrorist activities inside the country, a senior official said Wednesday.
Hossein Mousavian, secretary of the foreign policy committee of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, described the suspects as middle-ranking al Qaeda members and said they were still being questioned in jail.
He told reporters in Vienna, where he is heading Iran's delegation to talks at the U.N. nuclear agency, that the alleged militants had been "plotting against the national security of Iran and they have planned for terrorist activities inside Iran."
Asked why Iran was taking so long to try them, he said: "I think we are getting close to a trial...The process is going on. First of all I think the process of questioning should be finalized."
The United States has long believed that Iran was harbouring al Qaeda militants who escaped Afghanistan after U.S. troops invaded in late 2001 after the September 11 attacks.
Iran denies providing safe haven to al Qaeda members and says the suspects are behind bars, but has refused to name them.
The most important figure that Western intelligence agencies say may be there is Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian. He is widely believed to have taken charge of al Qaeda operations after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan.
Asked if Iran was holding Adel, Mousavian refused to answer directly but added, laughing: "This is not, definitely, (Osama) bin Laden or Mullah Omar" -- a reference to the fugitive al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.
Iran's foreign minister first said in January that Iran was holding about a dozen al Qaeda suspects and planned to try them. The United States demanded at the time that Tehran hand over the suspects to their countries of origin.
Mousavian said such a handover was possible, but only after a trial. "It depends on the result of the trial...If and when Iran decides to deliver, they will deliver to their own countries, not to the United States," he said.
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Statements by Dr. Hassan Abasi, theoretician of Revolutionary Guards intelligence, head of the Revolutionary Guards' Center for Doctrinaire Affairs of National Security Outside Iran's Borders, and political expert for the Iranian broadcasting authority, who told a secret meeting of Ansar-e Hizbullah activists about Iran's "locating and spying on 29 sensitive sites in the West, with the aim of bombing them? Our intention is that 6,000 U.S. nuclear warheads will explode in [the U.S.]. We have located the  weak points and we have transferred the information about them to the guerilla organizations, and we are acting through them." Abasi added, "We have established a department for Britain as well, and the discussion about bringing about its collapse is on our agenda. We are also operating among the Mexicans, the Argentineans, and all those with a problem with the U.S."  According to another report, Abasi said, "We defend [the line of] violence and war against the enemies of revolutionary Islam. I take pride in my actions that cause anxiety and fear among the Americans? We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilizationand for the uprooting of the Americans and the English. Our missiles are now ready to strike at their civilization, and as soon as the instructions arrive from Leader [Ali Khamenei], we will launch our missiles at their cities and installations. Our motto during the war in Iraq was: Karbala, we are coming, Jerusalem, we are coming. And because of Khatami's policies and his 'dialogue among civilizations,' we have been compelled to freeze our plan? And now we are [again] about to carry out the program? The global infidel front is a front against Allah and the Muslims, and we must make use of everything we have at hand to strike at this front, by means of our suicide operations or by means of our missiles."