Friday, July 23, 2004

Rafsanjani: Iran Rejects Accusations Over Sept. 11 Attacks

Top News Article | Reuters.com: "Iran Rejects Accusations Over Sept. 11 Attacks
Fri Jul 23, 2004 12:20 PM ET


By Parinoosh Arami
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - Iran Friday dismissed U.S. accusations that it may have been linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and called the charges part of a cover-up to divert attention from Washington's failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Sept. 11 commission report Thursday blamed Iran for its role in facilitating the transit of some of the al Qaeda members out of the country before the attacks. It also said there was strong evidence that Iran "facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers."

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshipers: "America has no choice but to blame another country for its failure in fighting terrorism and its failures in Afghanistan and Iraq."

The 567-page final report, issued unanimously by the 10-member commission, said there was no evidence that the Iranians were aware of the planning for the attack. "At the time they traveled through Iran, even the hijackers themselves were probably not aware of the full details of the plan," it said. Rafsanjani, a top adviser to Iran's most powerful figure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, acknowledged some al Qaeda members may have crossed Iran's borders with neighboring Afghanistan unnoticed. "Suppose it is true that eight of them passed through Iran, but is it a case against Iran? How many other countries have they passed on their way to America?" he asked in a Friday prayers sermon in Tehran broadcast live.

NUCLEAR FEARS

Shi'ite Muslim Iran says it was always ideologically opposed to the Sunni al Qaeda network and denies providing safe haven to al Qaeda fugitives. Rafsanjani, who heads Iran's top arbitration body, the Expediency Council, chided Washington for backing the Islamic militants to counter Iran's revolution. "America cannot evade its responsibility and blame others for its crimes. America created the al Qaeda and Taliban to undermine us," he said.

The commission's report pointed to "deep institutional failings" and missed opportunities to thwart the hijackings by al Qaeda, which killed almost 3,000 people in 2001. As well as its concerns that Iran is a supporter of terrorism, there is a growing fear in the United States that Tehran is determined to become a nuclear power.

Washington accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear arms -- which Iran denies -- and failing to fully disclose its atomic programs to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Vienna-base agency could refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council which in turn could impose sanctions on Iran."

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