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Iran's top security chief vows no leniency to al-Qaeda

Secretary of Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Hassan Rowhani in a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in Tehran on Sunday said that Iran will not ease up against al-Qaeda and will continue to arrest and evict suspected terrorists, IRNA reported.

The official also called for the formation of a popular and broad-based government in Iraq and reiterated Tehran's earlier statement that it did not seek its own model of government to be power in that country.

Rowhani further renewed the Islamic Republic's commitments to international treaties on non-proliferation and denounced US officials' call to ban Iran from having access to nuclear energy know-how.

The official's statements in meeting with Downer, whose country is a close American ally, reflected the Islamic Republic's reaction to US accusations since the end of the war on Iraq, including claims that al-Qaeda leaders operated from havens in Iran and that Tehran sought to build nuclear weapons.

"Iran will show no leniency to members of the al-Qaeda group," Rowhani said, adding, "Terrorism is an ominous global phenomenon which has taken the highest toll among Iranian officials and people.

"Iran started fighting this group even before the September 11 events when Americans held friendly ties with al-Qaeda. Since Sept 11, Iran has intensified this fight and practically demonstrated its most serious campaign against this group by arresting and evicting more than 500 members of al-Qaeda," he said.

"If they commit an offense inside Iran, we will try them; otherwise, they will be extradited to their respective country," Rowhani said.

The official also turned the tables on US for doing nothing against militant opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), which has been listed among terrorist groups by the State Department as well as most of the world countries, including Europe.

"Coalition forces have made no efforts to confront the terrorist Munafeqin (referring to the MKO, meaning hypocrites) group so far in the wake of Iraq (developments)," Rowhani said.

The top security official also renewed Iran's call for a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction as he stressed Tehran's announcement that the country's nuclear energy plans were for peaceful purposes.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful objectives and is totally transparent in this regard and in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."

Rowhani stressed that 'the world must accept Iran's right of acquiring the peaceful nuclear technology within the framework of international regulations'.

"Iran is the only victim of weapons of mass destruction in the (Middle East) region," he said in reference to Iraq's widespread use of chemical and biological weapons in its 1980-1988 war under Saddam Hussein against Iran.

Washington has called for measures to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear energy know-how on the pretext that Tehran seeks to ultimately build nuclear weapons.

Rowhani said, "The statements of certain American officials on depriving Iran from acquiring peaceful nuclear technology constitutes opposition to NPT and clear breach of international conventions."

Commenting on developments at Iran doorsteps in Iran, the official said, "The Iraqi people must determine their future government as soon as possible.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not seek to impose any government on the Iraqi people and only calls for the establishment of a democratic and broad-peace government in peace with neighbors in Iraq," he said.

The official announced Iran's readiness to cooperating on forming a popular government in Iraq. "To achieve this, the role of the United Nations must be strengthened," he said.

"Iran was opposed to military assault on Iraq and is now opposed to the presence of foreign forces in that country," Rowhani said.

"The continued presence of foreign forces is not acceptable for the Iraqi people and it is better the occupying forces leave Iraq in the earliest since this will be a positive step in the region's stability," he added.

Downer said Australia, as one of the members of the coalition which toppled Saddam Hussein, would like foreign forces to quit Iraq as soon as possible, but this requires a new political set-up takes shape in that country.

Given the Shiite majority in Iraq and strong bonds of Iranian and Iraqi Muslims, the Islamic Republic's cooperation on forming a popular government in Iraq is essential, he said.

Downer said Australia was encouraged by Iran's stance on fighting terrorism and that the US-led coalition in Iraq was firm on fighting MKO, including the disarmament of the group.

Zarif dismisses US allegation of harboring al-Qaeda terrorists

Iranian Ambassador to United Nations Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday dismissed the US allegation that Iran was harboring al-Qaeda terrorists, IRNA reported from New York.

In an interview with ABC television, he said that Iran wanted to reduce tensions with the United States but would resist if the United States only speaks with 'the language of pressure'.

Zarif told the TV's 'This Week Program' that Iran had a number of al-Qaeda people in custody.

"We continue to keep them in detention, and we continue to interrogate them, and once we have any information from them, we will pass them on to friendly governments," he said.

Zarif said, "If there are al-Qaeda people, they are either unknown to us, operating in places that we have not yet been able to detect, and we will welcome any information that would help us in detecting and arresting them, or they are in custody."

Zarif said that Iran has been one of the leading countries fighting terrorism. "We have probably captured more al-Qaeda people in the past 14 months than any other country," he said.

"Anybody who enters Iranian territory illegally from our point of view has committed a crime, and they have to be captured. We don't know how many of them are al-Qaeda people, how many of them have entered Iranian territory simply illegally, and they are not connected to al-Qaeda.

"We are continuing our efforts to first of all establish their identities," he said, adding that Tehran will 'try to see whether we can in interrogation get information from them which may be helpful to friendly governments'.

Zarif said Iranian officials have not yet found Saif Adel, the al-Qaeda operations chief, wanted by US officials.

"We have not been able, as I said, to identify him among the people who are in custody in Iran.

"That doesn't mean one way or the other; whether he is in custody or not, because of the fact that these people carry several passports," Zarif said.

He said that 'certain elements' in the United States have tried to bring down the Iranian government.

Zarif said, "Iran follows a policy, a very serious policy, of reducing tensions with every country, including the United States.

"If the United States is interested in the reduction of tensions then Iran is prepared to do the same. At the same time if the United States only want to speak through the language of pressure then Iran will resist."

... Payvand News - 5/25/03 ... --

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