Tehran, Feb 13, IRNA -- Iran on Thursday rejected as 'baseless' recent allegations by CIA Director George Tenet that suspected terror network al-Qaeda had established presence in the Islamic Republic.
"The seriousness of the Islamic Republic of Iran in fighting terrorism and expelling those suspected of being affiliated to al-Qaeda is quite clear, sincere and blunt," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said.
Tenet told the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday without providing any evidence that "We see disturbing signs that al-Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq."
Washington holds al-Qaeda responsible for the September 11, 2001 terror attack on American landmarks, including World Trade Center, which reportedly killed about 3,000 people.
Tehran in February announced that it had arrested 150 infiltrators, suspected of links to hardline Taliban and al-Qaeda, at its borders with Pakistan.
It identified them as being nationals of Arab, African and European countries, with some holding French, British, Belgian, Spanish and Dutch passports. They were extradited to their countries.
Asefi also brushed aside Tenet's other allegations, including his remarks that Iran was continuing to pursue development of a nuclear fuel cycle for civil and nuclear weapons purposes and that it was also moving toward self-sufficiency in its biological and chemical weapons programs.
"Any Iranian activity in the field of acquiring nuclear energy is totally compatible with international regulations," the Iranian official said.
President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday announced for the first time that Iran had started excavating uranium ore from a mine, 200 km from the central city of Yazd, to produce fuel for its nuclear plants.
He also stressed Iran's resolution to make use of advanced nuclear technology for generating 6,000 megawatts of electricity.
"President (Khatami)'s statements regarding the country's programs to equip (itself) with nuclear capability and make peaceful use of nuclear energy is totally comprehensive and sufficient," Asefi said.
"America's repeated and undocumented allegations indicates that country's distrust in international organizations and those in charge of this (nuclear) field as well as Washington seeing itself as superior," he added.
Despite Washington's unease, President Khatami's announcement was taken with no qualms by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its chief Mohammad ElBaradei announced his readiness to visit the Islamic Republic on February 25 while Tehran asked the date to be brought ahead to February 23.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was cited as alleging that 'Iran's ambitious and costly pursuit of a complete nuclear fuel cycle only makes sense if it's in support of a nuclear weapons program'.
Asefi denounced those allegations as 'groundless' and reiterated 'Tehran's readiness for dialogue with eligible organizations to remove any ambiguity'.
IRAN'S SUPPORT FOR LEBANESE GROUPS LEGITIMATE
The Iranian foreign ministry also rejected Tenet's claims that Tehran backed terrorist groups in Lebanon. "Iran's moral support for the legitimate Hizbullah group is in line with its support of freedom-seeking struggle of the Lebanese government and nation.
"And America, by exerting double standards and ignoring the most basic rights of the regional nations, cannot distort the righteous and popular struggles against Israel occupiers by the terrorism tag," Asefi added.
"Now, the world community has seriously become doubtful about America's unilateral objectives as (US) has instigated global distrust in itself by propagating lies and misusing the issue of the disarmament and fighting terrorism," he said.
"America has wasted the world community's charged potential for the eternal elimination of terror and terrorism. Now it is trying to settle the issue of Palestine and the critical Middle East crisis to its own advantage under the pretext of disarmament and fighting terrorism," Asefi added.
... Payvand News - 2/13/03 ... --