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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 August, 2003, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Iran refuses US al-Qaeda access
Iran has no intention of allowing United States officials to interrogate the al-Qaeda suspects it has arrested, the country's president has said.

President Mohammad Khatami of Iran
President Khatami has ruled out US access to al-Qaeda suspects
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Tuesday that Washington wanted to interrogate senior al-Qaeda members being held in Iran.

But Tehran has refused to identify which al-Qaeda members it has caught and has already ruled out handing them over to the US.

Saad Bin Laden, son of the Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, is thought to be one of the men being held by the Iranians.

Egyptian Saif al Adel, believed to be the network's security chief, and Kuwait-born Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, al-Qaeda's spokesman, are also reported to be under arrest.

Animosity towards US

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Khatami said: "Al-Qaeda members in our custody will be questioned. If they should be tried (in Iran) they will be. If they should be deported, they will be."

Osama Bin Laden

Tehran says it will extradite some al-Qaeda suspects to unspecified "friendly countries" and try those whose citizenship has been revoked and cannot be extradited.

"We will arrest all members of al-Qaeda members we find. Their animosity toward us is nothing compared with their animosity toward the United States," added the president.

Asked whether the al-Qaeda suspects it has detained were being held in safe houses or in prison, Mr Khatami said: "They are under arrest."

Iran says it has arrested and deported around 500 al-Qaeda members in the last year, many of whom crossed into Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Some have been sent to Saudi Arabia.

At Wednesday's news conference, the president also denied Iranian press speculation that Tehran secretly asked Washington in late July to resume informal talks.

Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic relations in 1980 after Iran's Islamic revolution.


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