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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Iranian foreign minister denies al-Qaida fighters in Iran

February 19, 2002

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— There are no al-Qaida members among more than 100 people detained after crossing into Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told journalists Monday. He said most are women and children.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported last week that authorities had arrested about 150 foreigners who entered the country, including a number of Arabs, and were questioning them about links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

Kharrazi confirmed that more than 100 people are being held  about 70 children, 40 women and several men  and said "we did not find any al-Qaida among them."

U.S. officials have said Iran is not doing enough to stop or round up suspected Taliban or al-Qaida members fleeing into Iran as U.S. forces scour Afghanistan for fugitives.

CIA Director George Tenet said this month that Tehran had failed "to move decisively against al-Qaida members who have relocated to Iran from Afghanistan."

Kharrazi said Iran shares no "commonalities" with al-Qaida that would lead it to help the organization after its defeat in Afghanistan, and lashed out at the United States.

He said the United States is trying to create a "world dictatorship" and criticized President Bush for lumping Iran with Iraq and North Korea in an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech last month.

"The United States is trying to complete its hegemony on the world. While Iran is calling for dialogue among civilizations, America is calling for war," Kharrazi said.

Relations between Iran and the United States seemed to improve following the Sept. 11 attacks, which Iran condemned.

But the comments from Bush and other U.S. officials ended that mood.

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