Iran denies Al-Qaeda presence

14 February 2003
Iran on 13 February issued a strong denial of US allegations that it is sheltering Al-Qaeda terrorists. 'Iran's seriousness in fighting against terrorism and expelling those suspected of links to Al-Qaeda has always been clear, transparent and sincere,' said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. Washington has accused Iran on several occasions of harbouring Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters driven out of Afghanistan, and of attempting to destabilise the regime of Hamid Karzai. On 11 February, in his briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA director George Tenet again made the allegation. 'We see disturbing signs that Al-Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq,' he said.

However, deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on 14 February that Iran was now looked at differently from the other two countries branded part of an 'axis of evil,' Iraq and North Korea. 'The axis of evil was a valid comment [but] I would note that there's one dramatic difference between Iran and the other two axes of evil and that would be its democracy,' he said. 'You approach a democracy differently.' Despite the rhetoric from both sides, Iranian and US representatives have held various meetings on common concerns, such as the looming conflict in Iraq (MEED 11:2:03).

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