Facing fresh US allegations, Iran claims it has dismantled al-Qaeda groups
AFP - World News (via Yahoo)
Jul 17, 2004
TEHRAN - Iran's intelligence minister announced that his services had smashed al-Qaeda operations in the country, amid fresh allegations from the United States the clerical regime has been cooperating with Osama bin Laden's network.
"The intelligence ministry has identified and dismantled all the Iranian branches of the al-Qaeda movement," Ali Yunessi was quoted as saying.
"We have stopped the terrorist acts of al-Qaeda. If we had not done so, we would have had security problems," he added.
Yunessi gave no further details.
But his statement coincided with US media reports that the September 11 commission in Washington has concluded Iran may have facilitated the 2001 attacks on the United States by providing eight to 10 al-Qaeda hijackers with safe passage to and from training camps in Afghanistan.
Time and Newsweek, in similar reports quoting congressional, commission and government sources, said Iran relaxed border controls and provided "clean" passports for the so-called "muscle hijackers" to transit Iran to and from bin Laden's camps between October 2000 and February 2001.
The commission's report says Iran at one point proposed collaborating with al-Qaeda on attacks against America, but bin Laden declined, saying he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia, according to Time.
Time said commission investigators "found that Iran had a history of allowing al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border," a practice they said dated back to October 2000.
And Newsweek quoted former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke as saying "there were lots of reasons to believe (al-Qaeda) was being facilitated by elements of the Iranian security services. The best evidence we had of state support (for al-Qaeda) was Iran."
Iran has frequently been accused of harbouring and not cracking down on the group. Iran, which was hostile to Afghanistan's Taliban and Al-Qaeda, has fiercely denied allegations that it is supporting the group.
In 2003, Iran confirmed it was holding senior al-Qaeda members, but has refused to identify them.
Diplomatic sources and Arab press reports have pointed to the possible presence in Iran of the movement's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Gaith, and its number three, Saif al-Adel, as well as bin Laden's son and Al-Qaeda heir, Saad.
And in February, Spain's top anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon alleged Al-Qaeda had a "board of managers" operating in Iran.
But the Iranian government has responded by criticising what it sees as a failure by US troops in Iraq to crack down on the People's Mujahedeen, the main Iranian armed opposition group, which Washington considers a terrorist organisation.
It has said the detained group members could go on trial here, but that the process could take years.
Palestinian problem - ''strategic issue for Iran''
Al Bawaba - Report Section
Jul 17, 2004
Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel Saturday termed the Palestinian problem as a "strategic issue for Iran," stressing the 7th Majlis would do its utmost to support the "brave but oppressed Palestinians."
In a meeting with Palestinian Ambassador to Tehran Salah Zawawi, Haddad Adel said Iran regards the Palestinian issue as the symbol of struggles of the Islamic world against the West's atrocities, IRNA reported.
He added the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the need of bringing down the illegal wall being built in the Palestinian territory was a big victory for the Islamic world and the Palestinians.
"The US and the Zionist regime`s refusal to accept the (ICJ) ruling indicates their lack of commitment to international regulations and their dual standards regarding international issues," he said.