Iran calls for strong ties with Iraq
Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - ©2003 IranMania.com
Tehran, Aug 11, IRNA -- Iran on Monday said it sought to forge strong ties with Iraq which waged an imposed war against the Islamic Republic between 1980 and 1988 during the rule of ousted Saddam Hussein.
However, it called for patience to say when Tehran would recognize a US-appointed Governing Council, a 25-member body which roughly reflects Iraq's ethnic and religious make-up.
"Our official position will be announced (in due time) but we should exercise patience in this respect," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters at a weekly news briefing.
Asefi said, "We would like to forge strong relations with our neighbor now that its dictatorial government, which kept the two countries separated for years, is gone."
The official called for the immediate pullout of occupying forces from Iraq in order to end chaos in that country.
"To establish peace in Iraq, the occupying forces must immediately pull out from that country and leave Iraq's future to its own people.
"It is only in this case that one can hope the internal chaos in Iraq will end," Asefi added.
Iran recently dispatched its first high-ranking delegation for discussions with the Governing Council to shore up fences between the two countries.
Asefi hailed the trip as 'positive', saying it enabled Iran to 'clarify our stances, views and approaches towards Iraq and hear the views' of the other side.
Iranian officials met with members of the Governing Council as well as several Iraqi clerics and UN special representative on Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, he said.
"All the individuals whom the delegation met with ... described the visit as very positive and valuable and stressed on expanding and strengthening relations with Iran," Asefi said.
He described economic transactions between the two countries in recent months as good, saying Iran exported 160 million dollars of goods to Iraq in the period.
NO IRAQI POWS IN IRAN
Asefi stressed that Iran holds no Iraqi prisoners from the 1980-1988 war. "There is no Iraqi POW in Iran and all the registered POWs and those who were in Iran have been freed," he said.
The statements apparently came in reaction to demonstrations held by around 50 people in Baquba, 60 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, to demand the release of Iraqi POWs in Iran and compensation for those already freed.
Iran itself says that close to 4,000 Iranian prisoners of war in Iraq still remain unaccounted for.
The country has appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help establish the fate of its remaining prisoners of war in Iraq. Tehran has already accused US of intending to 'blackmail' the Islamic Republic on the fate of missing Iranians.
The Islamic Republic has also said that it considers US-British troops responsible for any threat against Iranian PoWs who may still be in Iraqi prisons. http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=17431&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs
Iran refuses US al-Qaeda access
Iran has no intention of allowing United States officials to interrogate the al-Qaeda suspects it has arrested, the country's president has said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Tuesday that Washington wanted to interrogate senior al-Qaeda members being held in Iran.
But Tehran has refused to identify which al-Qaeda members it has caught and has already ruled out handing them over to the US.
Saad Bin Laden, son of the Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, is thought to be one of the men being held by the Iranians.
Egyptian Saif al Adel, believed to be the network's security chief, and Kuwait-born Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, al-Qaeda's spokesman, are also reported to be under arrest.
Animosity towards US
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Khatami said: "Al-Qaeda members in our custody will be questioned. If they should be tried (in Iran) they will be. If they should be deported, they will be."
Tehran says it will extradite some al-Qaeda suspects to unspecified "friendly countries" and try those whose citizenship has been revoked and cannot be extradited.
"We will arrest all members of al-Qaeda members we find. Their animosity toward us is nothing compared with their animosity toward the United States," added the president.
Asked whether the al-Qaeda suspects it has detained were being held in safe houses or in prison, Mr Khatami said: "They are under arrest."
Iran says it has arrested and deported around 500 al-Qaeda members in the last year, many of whom crossed into Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Some have been sent to Saudi Arabia.
At Wednesday's news conference, the president also denied Iranian press speculation that Tehran secretly asked Washington in late July to resume informal talks.
Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic relations in 1980 after Iran's Islamic revolution. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3147933.stm
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