Tehran denies links to al-Qa'ida terrorists

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The Independent Online

Iran has denied allegations that it has secret nuclear facilities or links with al-Qa'ida, after Tony Blair called for the regime to come clean about its nuclear programme.

Iran, which has been under increasing pressure from the US, accused Washington of double standards. On Wednesday Tony Blair backed the American position by warning that Tehran should not press for the installation of a theocratic regime in post-Saddam Iraq.

The US has said that Iran is not doing enough to root out members of al-Qai'da who may have played a role in suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

But Hamid Reza Asefi, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said investigators did not know if Saif al-Adil, the terror network's security chief, was among suspects being detained in Iran. "No al-Qa'ida members in our detention have been identified yet," he said.

Washington says the arrests have not defused its concerns. Mr Asefi said: "We believe America is not serious about fighting terrorism. It adopts a double standard ... which shows its indecision in dealing with terrorists."

Mr Blair said in Kuwait on Wednesday that it was crucial for Iran to answer international concerns about its alleged links with al-Qa'ida. He also said it was important that the Iranians co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) regarding the country's alleged nuclear weapons programme.

But Khalil Moosavi, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said: "We don't have any site hidden from the IAEA."

Yesterday, Russia ignored US objections and vowed to continue building a nuclear power plant in Iran, saying that only the UN could assess whether Tehran was violating promises not to produce weapons.