There are now US military bases
in nearly all of Iran's neighbours
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network a "dangerous organisation" on Sunday and said the Iranian government was serious about combating it.

 

"We have been serious about Al-Qaeda and we will remain serious about Al-Qaeda because it is a very dangerous organisation," Kharrazi told reporters.

 

His comments came on the day that a Washington Post article quoted Bush administration officials saying they are ready to embrace a policy of destabilising the Iranian government.

 

In Tehran, Iranian UN Ambassador Javad Zarif pointed to his country’s detaining of several Al-Qaeda members as proof that Tehran is not sheltering members of the group, as Washington claims.

 

"We have had a number of Al-Qaeda people in custody, and we continue to keep them in detention, and we continue to interrogate them, and once we have any information from them, we will pass them to friendly governments," Zarif told ABC News in an interview from Tehran.

 

Zarif also said Iran wants to reduce tensions with the United States.

 

“If the United States is interested in the reduction of tensions then Iran is prepared to do the same," he said. "At the same time if the United States only wants to speak through the language of pressure then Iran will resist."

  

Kharrazi: Al-Qaeda
"dangerous"

The ambassador said Iranian officials have not yet found Saif al Adel, the Al-Qaeda operations chief keenly sought by US

officials.

 

"We have not been able, as I said, to identify him among the people who are in custody in Iran. That doesn't mean one way or the other; whether he is in custody or not, because of the fact that these people carry several passports."

 

His comments came as US officials discussed whether to act against Iran's religious regime, decreed by President George W Bush last year to be part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea's communist rulers and the recently ousted government of Iraq.

 

The United States and Iran recently cultivated discreet contacts after decades of estrangement, but those talks were broken off by Washington amid reports Al-Qaeda operatives hiding in Iran were involved in planning the 12 May bombings in Saudi Arabia.

  

US lawmakers making the rounds of Sunday talk shows welcomed US action against Iran, but would not give details of any plans.

 

"I think it would be in the interest of the world, and most particularly of the Iranian people, to have a regime change in Iran," pro-Israeli senator Joseph Lieberman told the "Fox News Sunday" programme.

 

Lieberman and other lawmakers, however, ruled out US military action similar to the massive armed assault on Iraq which overthrew Saddam Hussein last month, saying it was not necessary.