PARIS, 20 July (IPS) The Islamic Republic of Iran rejected as “utterly baseless” new American allegations that it was harboring al-Qa’eda leaders and could have been linked to the 11 September 2001 attacks carried by this organization against World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
More than Iraq, Iran is becoming the topic issue in the campaign of American candidates to the presidency.
“The claims are fictitious and most ridicule, as they came from a country that had issued entry visa, residence permit to the attackers who had undergone pilot training in the United States", Hamid Reza Asefi, the official news agency “IRNA” quoted senior spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday 20 July.
"Any claim regarding Iran's direct or indirect relationship with the September 11 terrorist incidents is merely fabricated and fictitious. When it comes to al-Qa’eda, we act in line with our interests and our national security", he explained.
US President George W. Bush on Monday said Washington was probing the possibility that Tehran had offered assistance to some of the terrorists who conducted the 11 September attacks against the United States.
“The United States is investigating possible ties between Iran and al-Qa’eda, and wants to know if the Iranian government played a role in the attacks”, President Bush said, adding, "We will look to see if the Iranians were involved".
However, he made it clear that there was no definite proof yet that this had occurred, and he didn't mention any possible consequences for Iran.
According to the 9/11 Commission, some of the 19 hijackers of the airliners that went crushing against World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon are believed to have passed through Iran, and details of their journey are expected to be released by the in the Commission’s final report.
For its part, the US Central Intelligence Agency says at least eight of the hijackers who carried out the attacks passed through Iran but stresses that it has no proof that Tehran backed the operations or had links to al-Qa’eda.
The US Central Intelligence Agency says that at least eight of the hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks passed through Iran.
While rejecting all links with the al-Qa’eda, Tehran has admitted the arrest of up to 450 operatives of the terrorist organisation that had fled Afghanistan immediately after the massive military intervention of American forces in that central Asian nation ruled by the orthodox Taleban and controlled virtually by Mr. Osama Ben Laden, al-Qa’eda’’s leader, alleged to also have masterminded the 11 September operations that killed more than 3.500 people.
The Shi’ia Iran was at odd with the staunchly anti-Shi’ate Taleban who had killed nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist when they stormed the northern city of Mazar Sharif on August 1998.
According to Iranian officials, some al-Qa’eda members who had “slipped” to Iran from Pakistan were arrested and those the nationalities had been established were handed to their original countries, including Saudi Arabia.
However, the Islamic Republic is also suspected by the American intelligence to shelter some senior al-Qa’eda leaders, including Sa’d Ben Laden, Osama’s elder son and Saif al Adl, the Organisation’s intelligence boss.
The US Department of State repeated long-standing accusations against the Iranian ruling ayatollahs, including their support for terrorism and helping terrorist organisations, opposing the peace between Israel and Arabs, pursuing nuclear arms and a disastrous human rights record.
“Washington would be willing to open a dialogue with Iran, but if and when it is best for our interests, it is up to the President to determine that", Richard Boucher, the State Department’s Spokesman told reporters
But Asefi said Iran was “not interested” in resuming ties with a country that uses “the stick and carrot policy”. "Iran it will only accept relations with other countries based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and national interests", he reiterated.
He also ridiculed Washington’s criticism of the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic saying that the pictures of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison “are still in the minds of the international community"”.
Washington cut off all relations and imposed trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic after Iranian revolutionary students attacked the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and took 55 American diplomats and staff hostage for 444 days.
Iran and the United States are also at odd over Iranian controversial atomic projects, with Washington claiming the programs are for building a nuclear arsenal to attack Israel in the one side and Tehran claiming that the atomic plants it has under construction – with the help of Moscow – are for civilian uses, mostly producing much needed electricity.
“More than Iraq, Iran is becoming the topic issue in the campaign of American candidates to the presidency”, observed Mr. Amir Taheri a veteran Iranian journalist.
According to the “Baztab” internet site that belongs to Mr. Mohsen Reza’I, the Secretary of the Expedience Council and the former Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, the report compiled by the9/11 Commission “might serve as a pretext for preparing a military action against the Islamic Republic”. ENDS US IRAN QA’EDA 20704