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Iran denies harboring al Qaeda

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Iran's foreign minister denied Wednesday that al Qaeda and Taliban fighters had fled to Iran, and he asked U.S. officials to share any information they may have to the contrary.

"There is no al Qaeda member in Iran," said Kamal Kharazi, who was in Malaysia for the Organization of Islamic Countries conference. "In fact, Americans created the Taliban and supported al Qaeda, therefore there is no reason why we should help them and give safe haven to them."

Kharazi did not elaborate on that statement, but he said Iran would cooperate if the United States proved there were al Qaeda or Taliban members in the country.

"If there's any information in the hand of Americans that would help us to catch them, we are ready to do that," he said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters, "There is no question but that al Qaeda have moved in and found sanctuary in Iran, and there is no question but that al Qaeda have moved into Iran and out of Iran to the south and dispersed to some other countries.

"To my knowledge they are not operating out of Iran in the sense that they were out of Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said.

Kharazi denied that Iran had an "arms relations" with the Palestinians, but noted that the Israeli army uses U.S. weapons.

"Palestinians are, of course, brutalized by Israelis and they are oppressed," he said. "This is their right to continue to resist against Israelis, which uses also American-made weapons to kill them and to terrorize them."

The Iranian minister accused the United States of misrepresenting Hezbollah, the Palestinian guerrilla group that operates out of Lebanon and is backed by the Iranians.

"Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization," Kharazi said. "They've been fighting occupiers ... they have a legitimate right to resist against occupation. Support of Hezbollah is political and moral."

Kharazi said that defining terrorism was a difficult task, particularly arriving at a definition "accepted by everyone."

"It is for organizations like the U.N. to come up with an acceptable collective decision," he said. "This has to be done under the auspices of the U.N., because it is only under the concerted effort and the auspices of the U.N. that terrorism can be stopped. Uniltateral actions cannot be productive and constructive."




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