Iranian foreign minister: 'Iranians are united'
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(CNN) -- Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran, Iran, on Monday to protest President Bush's characterization of Iran as part of an "axis of evil" that supports terrorism. The demonstrations also marked the 23rd anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi spoke Monday with CNN's Paula Zahn about the protests and recent U.S. allegations that Iran is harboring members of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
ZAHN: What do you think is the message those demonstrators are sending to the United States?
KHARRAZI: The message [is] that Iranians are united, supporting the government, and certainly reject the unilateral approach by President Bush. I believe ... everyone has rejected this, especially European countries.
ZAHN: These demonstrations come at a time in which the United States has accused Iran of harboring al Qaeda members and Taliban members.
KHARRAZI: You know that Iran has been against Taliban, against al Qaeda before Americans did anything to those people. And this is illogical for Iran to give safe haven to these people. We've been controlling our borders, but naturally, we have a long border. If there's any information that any al Qaeda member is in Iran, that should be given to us to follow those people.
ZAHN: The United States says it has substantial evidence to convince them that the border is more porous, and those people have made it into Iran. Are you denying that any of these Taliban leaders and al Qaeda leaders have made it into Iran?
KHARRAZI: There has been no Taliban leader or al Qaeda member so far in Iran, but if there is any evidence, any information, about the presence in Iran, that should be transferred to us to be followed. In fact, there are many detainees in Iran because a lot of smugglers cross the border, and we have to check those people. There may be Arabs, there may be others, but so far there has not been any al Qaeda member among those people.
ZAHN: So essentially, what you are telling us this morning is you think the United States government is lying, when it says Taliban leaders and al Qaeda members have made it to Iran?
KHARRAZI: ... [They're] looking for excuses because they have their own agenda of unilateral approach in the world, something that is not supported by others, and these are excuses. Nobody agrees that Iran is going to kill the baby which has been produced in Kabul, a central government. We have been supporting the central government in Kabul, and we are continuing to support them. There are a lot of differences among the governors in Afghanistan, and we should not be trapped by the differences. ... This has just been an excuse for Americans to follow their cause.
ZAHN: A CIA report issued two weeks ago said that Iran remains one of the most active countries in trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. officials say that Iran may just be a few years away from developing nuclear weapons. Do you deny this?
KHARRAZI: This is not something new. They have been always making these accusations, and there have been frequent visits to Iran. ... We do not follow the development of nuclear weapons, but we are trying to have technology for peaceful purposes.
ZAHN: Mr. Kharrazi, I know you said these allegations aren't new, but I missed part of that response. Are you saying they are not true?
KHARRAZI: It's not true, certainly [it] is not true. But it is just an excuse to put pressure on Iran. It is Israel which is the source of threat in the region, which has access to nuclear weapons and has many nuclear weapons. It's the source of terror not only for Iran, but for all countries in that region.
ZAHN: What about those weapons that were shipped to Israel, that investigators have confirmed came from Iran?
KHARRAZI: Who are those investigators? There has been some allegations by Americans, Israelis, but there has not been [anything] substantiated. Actually, there is no foundation for that allegation, and different officials in the government of Iran have declared that they have nothing to do with this ship. That is just a fabricated story by Israelis. If there is any document, that should be delivered and should be shared [with] us to follow the matter, but there is no substance to this story.
ZAHN: We thank you for your time this morning. I appreciate you joining "American Morning," and we need to make it clear as we leave Mr. Kharrazi, the Israeli government is not only claiming that to be true, but the U.S. government as well.
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