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Iran rules out terror extraditions

Kharazi said Iranians have been totally opposed to al Qaeda.
Kharazi said Iranians have been totally opposed to al Qaeda.

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- Iran will refuse requests to extradite captured al Qaeda members to the United States, instead trying them under Iranian law, a top official has said.

Seyed Mohammad Sadegh Kharazi, Iran's ambassador to France, also said Tuesday there were "links between al Qaeda and the military elements of the Baath party," the party once run by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

He described al Qaeda and the Taliban as "essentially the illegitimate children" of the United States.

U.S. officials blame recent attacks in Iraq on Baath party remnants, members of terrorist groups, and other insurgents.

The United States has called on Iran to send al Qaeda members within its borders to the United States, because of the terrorist attacks the group has launched against the U.S. and its interests overseas.

Kharazi said his country will instead try al Qaeda members "under Iranian law because they have committed crimes on our territory."

"We have from the very beginning been totally opposed to al Qaeda and, besides, al Qaeda has been completely opposed to us," Kharazi told reporters at the Center for Foreign Press.

"It has to be said that the Taliban and al Qaeda are essentially the illegitimate children of the U.S.A. It is the Americans who are responsible for bringing these movements into being."

The Deputy Secretary of State Tuesday said the U.S. was prepared to resume limited contact with Iran "about areas of mutual interest," but has not entered into a broad dialogue with Tehran in an effort to normalize relations.

"We are prepared to meet again in the future, but only if that would serve U.S. interests," Richard Armitage told the Sentate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on U.S policy toward Iran.

U.S. State Department officials said Tuesday that there have been no direct government contacts with Iran regarding the presence of al Qaeda members or other issues, including the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq and nuclear concerns.

The department's comments followed President George W. Bush's statement that the U.S. was "working closely" with Iran and Syria "to let them know that we expect them to enforce borders."

Aides said the president meant he was in touch with Iran through third party channels.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi earlier this week told reporters in Baghdad that Iran had provided the United Nations with the names of 225 people who had been repatriated to their respective countries on suspicion of membership in the al Qaeda terror network. (Full story)

He also said Iran has given the United Nations the names of about 2,300 people who have been arrested on its eastern borders, while trying to infiltrate into the country from Pakistan. According to Asefi, the arrests were made between late July and late October.

Nuclear program

Responding to Iran's claims, a senior U.S. official told CNN that none appear to be top members of the terrorist group.

"We have no indication they've turned over any of the big guys," the senior U.S. official said.

Kharazi, representative of a regime that has been criticized by human rights groups worldwide as well as tens of thousands of demonstrators at home for denying civil rights to its citizens, said Iran is concerned about "the human rights abuses in the (U.S.) prisons where al Qaeda members are being held -- at Guantanamo for example."

He also sought to allay fears that his country may be running a nuclear weapons program.

"Nuclear weapons have no place whatsoever within Iranian doctrine," he said, adding that civil nuclear energy "is absolutely vital."

Kharazi said Iran is taking steps toward suspending its uranium enrichment program, insisting "we have no problem with this."

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