Mon, Jul 19, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Teheran admits to transit of some Sept. 11 hijackers

REUTERS AND DPA , TEHRAN

Iran acknowledged yesterday that some al-Qaeda members involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the US may have passed through the country shortly beforehand.

US government sources have said a bipartisan commission's report this week on the Sept. 11 attacks will mention that most of the hijackers involved in the attacks transited through Iran on their way to the US from October 2000 to February 2001.

The evidence also suggests that Iran allowed known al-Qaeda opera-tives to pass freely over its border with Afghanistan in 2000, even going as far as to order border guards not to stamp the passports of known terrorists.

The new evidence is reported to have come from a combination of sources, including the testimony of top al-Qaeda members now in US custody, as well as through the interception of electronic communications by US security services.

"We have long borders and it is not possible to fully control them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference when asked about the commission's report.

"It is normal that five or six people who cross the border illegally over a period of five or six months may evade our attention. The same happens on the border between Mexico and the United States," he added.

Asefi noted that Iran had tightened its border control since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Iran has shown it is against terrorists and extremism and is serious about confronting terrorists," Asefi said.

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