Sunday, July 18, 2004

Iran Says Sept 11 Plotters May Have Passed Through

Wired News | Iran Says Sept 11 Plotters May Have Passed Through: "Iran Says Sept 11 Plotters May Have Passed Through

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran acknowledged on Sunday that some al Qaeda members involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States may have passed through the country shortly beforehand.

U.S. government sources have said a bipartisan commission's report this week on the Sept. 11 attacks will mention that some of the hijackers transited through Iran on their way to the United States.

"We have long borders and it is not possible to fully control them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference when asked about the commission's report.

"It is normal that five or six people who cross the border illegally over a period of five or six months may evade our attention. The same happens on the border between Mexico and the United States," he added.

Asefi noted that Iran had tightened its border control since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It happened before Sept. 11 and who knew that Sept. 11 was going to happen?"

Iran denies U.S. accusations that it has collaborated with and harbored al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. The hard-line Islamic movement was overthrown in a U.S.-led war at the end of 2001.

Tehran has arrested and deported hundreds of al Qaeda suspects in the past two years and says it is holding some senior members of Osama bin Laden's network.

On Saturday it announced it had smashed a ring of Iranian al Qaeda supporters.

"Iran has shown it is against terrorists and extremism and is serious about confronting terrorists," Asefi said.

He said news reports tying Iran to al Qaeda were part of a U.S. cover-up to deflect attention away from its failings in Iraq.

"The more we approach the U.S. (presidential) election the more we will witness such news propaganda," he said. "

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