Iran: Washington must apologise

Monday's call for a US apology comes after Washington mounted massive pressure on the Islamic republic, accusing it of sheltering al-Qaeda members involved in the 12 May suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia.

 

“The Americans should present a full apology to the international community for the support they gave to al-Qaeda”, said Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi.

 

The official was referring to a period in the 1980s when the United States sent millions of dollars through the Pakistani Secret Service to Islamic groups fighting the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan. 

 

Past US support

 

One of the Muslim groups that received the money consisted of Arab volunteers that included Osama bin Laden, who later founded al-Qaeda network.

 

The name of al-Qaeda (meaning ‘the base’ in Arabic) came from the safe houses set up for Arab volunteers in the north western Pakistani city of Peshawar.

 

The United States was also supportive of the Taliban militia that emerged in 1994 even after the religious movement gave bin Laden safe haven in 1996.

 

Washington was hoping that a US energy resources company, Unocal, would reach an agreement with the Taliban on setting up a gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.

 

The US policy towards the Taliban rule shifted significantly after the two bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998. Bin Laden was blamed of masterminding the attacks.

 

Iran responds

 

Asefi said that al-Qaeda’s “violent ideology is the total opposite of that of the Islamic republic”.

 

US officials have demanded Iran to crack down on al-Qaeda members operating in the country after the Riyadh blasts last months that killed 34 people, including eight Americans.

 

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, has reminded the United States of his country’s arrests and extradition of hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects since the US war on Afghanistan was unleashed in 2001.

 

The minister also said last week that Iranian authorities had arrested a group of al-Qaeda members before the Riyadh bombings, saying it was, therefore, impossible for them to organize such a military mission.

 

Asefi said Iran was still in the process of identifying those arrested, and said he hoped the country “has the means to identify them” without outside assistance.