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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 15:14 GMT
Iran 'rounding up' al-Qaeda suspects
Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden's whereabouts are still uncertain
Iran says it has arrested and deported more than 500 people suspected of links to al-Qaeda.

But it said it had no information that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden's eldest son was in the country after fresh reports emerged of his presence there.

We will arrest Bin Laden's son if he is in Iran

Foreign Minister
Kamal Kharrazi

However if Saad Bin Laden did turn out to be in Iran, action would be taken, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a Tehran news conference.

The US has repeatedly accused Iran of harbouring al-Qaeda members - allegations Tehran has strenuously denied.

Porous border

Iran "will never be a sanctuary for members of al-Qaeda," Mr Kharrazi told journalists.

He said Iran's current policy "towards those suspected of links with al-Qaeda" is to arrest them and expel them to the country from which they arrived, or to their country of origin.

Kamal Kharrazi
Kharrazi: Policy is to crack down on al-Qaeda
He did not say when or over what period of time the arrests and deportations took place.

Last August, Tehran announced it had deported 12 Saudi men suspected of being al-Qaeda members back to Riyadh.

They were thought to have taken refuge in Iran after the US began military action in Afghanistan to rout the former Taleban leaders and al-Qaeda associates.

Iran has acknowledged that some fleeing al-Qaeda members have been able to slip into the country, which has an extensive eastern border with Afghanistan.

Persistent reports

In the last week or so, press reports quoting diplomatic and US intelligence sources have suggested that Saad Bin Laden is currently in Iran

"Allegations about Bin Laden's son are not new," Mr Kharrazi said.

"Definitely we will arrest him if he is located in Iran."

CIA director George Tenet last week said al-Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan had established a presence in Iran and Iraq.

Saad Bin Laden, who is about 23 years old, is believed to be the oldest of more than 20 children the al-Qaeda leader has by several wives.

US intelligence officials believe Saad Bin Laden has begun to play a prominent role in al-Qaeda since the group went into hiding after leaving Afghanistan.


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See also:

03 Nov 02 | Middle East
29 Aug 02 | Middle East
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30 Jul 02 | South Asia
05 Feb 02 | Middle East
11 Feb 02 | Middle East
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