Iran Wants U.S. to Swap MKO Rebels for Qaeda Men
Aug 2, 2003
NEW YORK - Iran wants the United States to hand over members of an Iranian opposition movement in return for any al Qaeda figures it extradites to Washington, the New York Times said on Saturday.
The newspaper quoted a U.S. official as saying Washington had approached Tehran with a request for the handover of members of Osama bin Laden's network in Iranian custody, including Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian thought to be al Qaeda's security chief.
But the approach, relayed through the Swiss embassy that handles U.S. interests in Tehran, did not include any proposed swap and the United States "did not receive a positive response," the Times quoted the official as saying.
A senior Bush administration official told the newspaper the administration would reject any kind of swap for members of the Mujahideen Khalq, which is listed by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.
Many Mujahideen Khalq members are in camps in Iraq under U.S. military supervision.
There will be "no quid pro quo," the Times quoted the official as saying of the reported exchange proposal.
The United States has accused Iran of harboring and assisting terrorists. Tehran denies the charge.
The New York Times quoted senior U.S. and Middle Eastern officials as saying Adel was among al Qaeda members in Iranian custody after having been detained several weeks ago.
They said they believed other al Qaeda figures in Iranian hands include Saad bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden's older sons, and Suleiman Abu Ghaith, an al Qaeda spokesman.
The Times quoted a U.S. official as saying Washington believes Iran is also holding Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian identified by the United States as a lieutenant of bin Laden.
Iran publicly acknowledged for the first time last month that it was holding some senior al Qaeda figures.
"Since the collapse of the Taliban regime we have arrested a large number of them," Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said on July 23. "Many of them have been expelled and a large number of them are in our custody -- a mixture of big and small members."
The Mujahideen Khalq, the main armed opposition to Iran's clerical leadership, lost its guerrilla base in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion toppled its principal patron Saddam Hussein.
The Mujahideen joined the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the shah but later broke ranks with Iran's new leaders. http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1520.shtml