Iran has rejected as fabrication and fantasy President George Bush's suggestions
Tehran may have been involved in the September 11th terror attacks on the United
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said any claim about
Iran's direct or indirect links to the September 11th terrorist attacks on
the United States was "fabrication and fantasy."
He told the Iranian press agency, it is not strange that some people manage
to slip through a country's borders illegally, what is funny is the fact that
the country which has given them visas, residency permits, pilot training,
and sabotage training is making such claims.
There were other, mixed reactions in Iran to President Bush's announcement
that Washington is investigating whether Tehran played a role in the al-Qaida
attacks on the United States. The head of the London-based Center for Arab
and Iranian Studies, Ali Nouri Zadeh, says some politicians he spoke to in
Iran saw in Mr. Bush's statements a call to dialogue.
"The response from Tehran was not that much bad, I think," he said. "When
I read some newspapers today, some of them, they took this as a sign of an
American readiness for diplomacy, while some hardliners, you know, they translate
it as a sign of war and invasion or attack. But as a whole, I should say that
the main stream politicians in Iran, they responded, you know, balanced, quite
well and they thought the door is still open to them."
In his statement Monday, President Bush said that if Iran wanted better relations
with Washington there are some things they must do. He said those things included
ending what Washington claims is Iran's nuclear-weapons program and its support
Mr. Asefi, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, referring to Mr. Bush's
statement, said the time is over for carrot and stick policy. He said the Iranian
nation has proved it accepts relations with other countries based on mutual
Mr. Asefi said Iran had clearly stated its opposition to al-Qaida, and called
the inference it was involved in 9/11 part of a campaign by Washington ahead
of U.S. presidential elections.
Iran says it has arrested and deported about 500 suspected al-Qaida members
since the September 11th attacks, but also acknowledges holding on to some.
Mr. Zadeh, of the Arab-Iranian Studies Center, says those alleged al-Qaida
members still in Iranian custody are senior in the terrorist network's ranks.
"There were people from al-Qaida coming to Iran prior to 9/11 and after 9/11,
almost 350 of them," he said. "They went to Iran and some were not important
people so they were interrogated and later on they were extradited to, I mean,
they were give to Saudis, to Jordanians, to Egyptians, but the main, the big
fishes, they are still in Iran."
An Iran expert at Cairo University's political science department, Amal Hamada,
says she suspects Iran is holding on to some of the wanted al-Qaida members
to use in future bargaining with the United States, or other countries.
"Sometimes they say we do have, and sometimes they say we do not have any
member of al-Qaida in our presence, but if they have them, I think they are
using them as a card to play with, to compromise with the international community
in general, or with a specific state in particular, if they need it, they are
using them as cards," said Ms. Hamada.
Iran acknowledges that some of the September 11th attackers may have been
in Iran before the attacks, but says that was due to Iran's long and porous
borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, which Tehran says it is unable to efficiently