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Iran: Serious about fighting al-Qaida

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Iran: Serious about fighting al-Qaida

Foreign minister denies support for bin Laden’s network

TEHRAN, May 25 — Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network a “dangerous organization†on Sunday and said his country was serious about combating it.

THE WASHINGTON POST newspaper reported on Sunday the United States had broken off all contact with Iran following intelligence reports which suggested al-Qaida operatives in Iran played a role in the May 12 suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia.

Kharrazi insisted Iran had already arrested and deported many al-Qaida members who had crossed illegally into the country and was interrogating other suspects.

“We have been serious about al-Qaida and we will remain serious about al-Qaida because it is a very dangerous organization,†Kharrazi told reporters after a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

“There is no way that Iranians would support al-Qaida because we have been fighting with al-Qaida since before even the Americans were engaged with (fighting) them,†he said.

INCREASING PRESSURE

Iran, which is on U.S. President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil†list, has come under increasing pressure from Washington since the end of the war in Iraq.

In recent weeks U.S. officials have accused the Islamic Republic of meddling in post-war Iraq, developing nuclear weapons, sheltering al-Qaida members and sponsoring terrorism. Iran denies all the U.S. charges.

The Washington Post reported that Pentagon officials were pushing for the Bush administration to adopt a more aggressive policy to destabilize the Iranian government.

Washington’s quick military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, both neighbors of Iran, have rattled many in the country’s clerical establishment, diplomats say.

Hassan Rohani, secretary general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Iran “would like to reduce the existing tensions,†between Tehran and Washington.

“If America shows goodwill, one could expect better prospects in the future relations of the two countries,†the Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper on Sunday quoted him as saying.

Rohani added Iran was “ready to open its nuclear program to full international supervision.†He gave no further details.

Washington broke ties with Tehran shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Officials from the two countries have met several times recently in Geneva to discuss issues related to Afghanistan and Iraq.

© 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

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