Iran News ...


5/23/03

Iran will not succumb to 'American chantage' on al-Qaeda, says intelligence minister

Intelligence Minister Ali Younesi said in the northwestern city of Tabriz on Wednesday night that Iran would not submit to American blackmail over the alleged presence of al-Qaeda and demanded Washington extradite terrorist opposition elements in US, IRNA reported.

"These accusations are intended for domestic consumption and we will not submit to (American) chantage," he told IRNA in reaction to fresh US allegations that al-Qaeda elements were operating from Iran.

"American accusations are repeated; they are accusing us on something which we have already been entangled with in the fight against Taliban," Younesi added.

The Islamic Republic was among fierce opponents of ultraorthodox Taliban group, which played host to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Tehran helped Northern Alliance topple them from power in the war-ravaged country.

"America must not blame others for its intelligence weakness. We will arrest al-Qaeda members wherever we see them," Younesi said.

"Now that Afghanistan is under the total control of America with the cooperation of Pakistan, why are they looking for a pretext? They must confess that they cannot (control all the borders).

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's borders are totally under control but some terrorists or traffickers may infiltrate, whom we would arrest upon sighting. This does not mean we are cooperating (with them)," Younesi added.

Iran, which has more than 900 km of common borders in mostly desert areas with Afghanistan and Pakistan, has arrested at least 500 suspected members of al-Qaeda and handed them over to their country of origin.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday there was "no question" some al-Qaeda members were in Iran. His allegations were repeated by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Wednesday.

Younesi brushed aside these allegations and said, "I say this as a counterclaim that many al-Qaeda members are currently in America."

EXTRADITION OF BOMBER

He also said that Iran had demanded US extradite a member of the terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) who was behind the 1994 deadly blast at a Shiite Muslim shrine in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

"The handing over of Munafeqin (Islamic Republic's equivalent for MKO, meaning hypocrites) leaders is one of our serious demands from America.

"The mastermind behind the crime at the pure shrine of Imam Reza (AS) is at the American disposal and we ask Americans to hand this criminal over to us," Younesi added.

The Iranian intelligence minister further hit out at Washington for the way it dealt with MKO. "America is faced with a serious challenge on how to treat Munafeqin. On one hand, it calls them terrorist, while on the other hand it shows leniency towards them."

US military have confirmed that they had reached a ceasefire accord with MKO, which Washington has listed among terrorist groups, following Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein's ouster.

The terrorist group, outlawed in Iran, used to carry out terrorist operations from their bases in Iraq under Saddam.

Younesi, who is on an official visit to the northwestern Azarbaijan province, also met with his Azeri counterpart, Namik Abbasov, who tours Iran at the head of a delegation.

The Iranian minister said that Tehran and Baku had removed "misunderstanding" which existed between the two countries over recent years through strengthening their cooperation and had built confidence in their relations.

The two countries are closely cooperating on security matters in line with their agreements which they have already signed, he said.

Abbasov said he hoped his visit would lead to further bolstering of relations between Iran and Azerbaijan in political, security, economic and cultural fields.

... Payvand News - 5/23/03 ... --



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