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Tensions Increase Between U.S. & Iran - 2003-05-28


The United States has been pressuring Iran to do more to crack down on al-Qaida terrorists. U.S. intelligence officials believe some of these terrorists are hiding in Iran. Iran has strongly denied the U.S. accusations. In fact, Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami on Wednesday called on Muslim nations to reject terrorism.

The debate comes as tension between Washington and Tehran seems to be growing increasingly strong. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins looks at the bilateral relationship.

The Bush administration says Iran is not doing enough to crack down on members of the al-Qaida terrorist group. The White House accuses Tehran of sheltering senior al-Qaida operatives.

U.S. officials say intelligence intercepts show that senior al-Qaida members hiding in Iran were involved in planning the recent suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia earlier this month. They say this man, Saif Adel, al-Qaida’s new security chief, orchestrated the bombing from inside Iran.

But Iranian officials say they recently arrested some al-Qaida members operating in the country. Javid Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, says his government is fighting against not harboring terrorists.

JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS
“We have probably captured more al-Qaida people in the past 14 months than any other country.”

This week the Washington Post reported that the White House cut off contacts with Iran and that administration officials were reportedly considering a plan to topple the government through a popular uprising. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell denied the report saying the United States will continue to have some contact with the Islamic Republic.

Foreign policy analyst Michael O’Hanlon:

MICHAEL O’HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
“There are people who are interested in destabilizing the Iranian government or at least threatening to do so. I am not convinced they have the leverage.”

Washington has also warned Tehran not to interfere in U.S. efforts to set up a new government in neighboring Iraq. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY
“Indeed, Iran should be on notice that efforts to try to remake Iraq in Iran’s image will be ‘aggressively put down.’”

Meanwhile, U.S. Congressman Porter Goss, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says Iran should do more to answer criticism over its support of terrorist groups.

PORTER GOSS, U.S. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE
“I would agree that Iran is certainly on that list of places that have some questions to be answered. I think that we should take actions and I’m not suggesting that it be military. Certainly that would be a last resort.”

Bush administration officials are expected to meet Thursday to review U.S. policy with Iran.

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