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Iran Says It Gave Terror Suspect to Saudis
Associated Press ^ | 7/14/04 | ALI AKBAR DAREINI

Posted on 07/14/2004 11:41:51 AM PDT by TexKat

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Wednesday it treated a confidant of Osama bin Laden simply as an illegal immigrant, handing him over to his native Saudi Arabia after he accepted an amnesty offer.

Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harby was flown to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, along with his wife and son.

"Saudi national al-Harby ... had illegally entered Iranian territory through the border of a neighboring country and had requested that he be handed over to his own country," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying.

Iranian officials have insisted they are fighting terror, but the United States accuses them of harboring — not cracking down on — al-Qaida fugitives. Iran also has said that al-Qaida suspects have slipped into the country from neighboring Afghanistan.

Al-Harby, seen on a videotape with the al-Qaida chief in Afghanistan as he talked about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is a potentially valuable asset in the war on terror because of his close ties to bin Laden.

The Saudi ambassador to Tehran, Nasser al-Braik, was quoted as saying Wednesday that al-Harby spent a few days in the embassy before he was flown to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. It was not clear how long he had been in Iran before arriving at the embassy, whether he had ever been in Iranian custody, or whether the Iranians knew of his links to bin Laden.

Al-Braik told the Saudi daily Okaz he had heard, but could not confirm, that al-Harby had been away from the kingdom for two years.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi, reached by The Associated Press on Wednesday, refused comment on al-Harby and other al-Qaida detainees in Iran, but he said last year that Iran was holding "a large number of small and big-time elements of al-Qaida."

Al-Harby is the third man to surrender under a Saudi amnesty that has been accompanied by aggressive efforts to capture those who don't give up. The amnesty offer followed a series of suicide bombings, gunbattles and kidnappings, many targeting foreign workers.

The attacks have been blamed on members of or sympathizers with al-Qaida, the anti-Western, extremist Muslim network that has denounced Saudi Arabia for its close ties with the United States.

Shiite Muslim Iran has strained relations with the United States, but says it also has a stake in quashing Sunni Muslim al-Qaida — and that Washington doesn't give it enough credit for its efforts.

Saudi Arabia and Iran signed a pact in 2001 to work together to combat terrorism and drug trafficking. Under the agreement, the two exchange intelligence and extradite criminals and terrorists. Iran says it has handed over more than 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives, most of them Saudis, to their home countries.

Iranian officials also have said some al-Qaida terror suspects would stand trial in Iranian courts because they have committed crimes in Iran.

American counterterrorism officials have said a handful of senior al-Qaida operatives who fled to Iran after the war in Afghanistan two years ago may have developed a working relationship with a secretive military unit linked to Iran's religious hard-liners.

An Iranian official with access to classified information told the AP that while individual links cannot be ruled out, it was state policy to oppose al-Qaida and that Iran and the United States were cooperating in that effort.

U.S. intelligence has suggested al-Qaida figures in Iran include Saif al-Adl, a top al-Qaida agent possibly connected to 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Abu Mohammed al-Masri, wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and bin Laden's eldest son, Saad.

Iran has repeatedly said it won't hand over al-Qaida detainees to Washington but political analysts say Iran may be willing to discuss al-Qaida ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

"Given the political considerations, any dialogue with the United States can't be public. It has to be in secret. I think Iran is open to dialogue with the United States over al-Qaida," analyst Mohammad Soltanifar said.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alharbi; iran; mohammedalharby; saudiarabia

1 posted on 07/14/2004 11:41:52 AM PDT by TexKat
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To: TexKat

Maybe they're playing "hot potato".

2 posted on 07/14/2004 11:46:12 AM PDT by sheik yerbouty
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To: TexKat

3 posted on 07/14/2004 12:35:39 PM PDT by TexKat (Just because you did not see it or read it, that does not mean it did or did not happen.)
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To: TexKat
...had requested that he be handed over to his own country,

I am sure that some of the context of the question was left out by accident. "You have a choice, we can (a)put a bullet in your head, (b)cut your head off, or (c) return your sorry ass to the Saudis who will throw you in jail for the rest of your life?" I am sure that it was out of love of country he opted to be handed over to Saudi security forces.

4 posted on 07/14/2004 4:18:31 PM PDT by Robert357
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