Report: United States pressuring Iran to hand over Al Qaeda members
Washington is exerting pressure on Iran to cooperate with the investigation into the recent bombings of foreign compounds in the Saudi Kingdom and to hand over Al Qaeda operatives believed by American intelligence officials to have been working on Iranian territory, Bush administration officials said Sunday, according to the New York Times.
In its Monday edition, the paper reported that the officials said the American message to Tehran demanding the turnover of Al Qaeda suspects was delivered this month, shortly following the bombings in Riyadh and also after American intelligence picked up indications that Al Qaeda members based in Iran might have been involved.
Since the war in Afghanistan that followed the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration has held secret meetings with Iranian officials, which have taken place in Europe and New York, according to the paper.
"We passed them a message instead of meeting them face to face," a senior administration official said. "The message was that this Al Qaeda link is very serious. We and others concerned about the Saudi bombings have made clear that Iran needs to cooperate with the Saudi investigation, and there's no reason to allow Al Qaeda on Iranian territory."
For their part, Iranian officials have repeatedly denied any involvement with Al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, told ABC that Tehran was cooperating in attempts to control Al Qaeda, but would not respond to "the language of pressure."
"We have had a number of al-Qaeda people in custody, and 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 to friendly governments", he said.
However, he added that if there were members of the network operating in Iran, it was without the government's knowledge or beyond its control. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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