Iran denies helping al Qaeda, Taliban escape
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- An Iranian official Monday dismissed accusations from the United States that Iran is harboring members of al Qaeda and the Taliban and warned that any attack against neighboring Iraq would be an "irreparable mistake."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi spoke to reporters Monday, addressing comments made by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on a weekend U.S. talk show.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has full control over its long, joint borders with Afghanistan," Asefi said. "The recent U.S. accusations against Iran are inspired and dictated by the Zionist regime," a reference to Israel.
Speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Rumsfeld said, "There isn't any doubt in my mind but that the porous border between Iran and Afghanistan has been used for al Qaeda and Taliban to move into Iran and find refuge.
"We have any number of reports that Iran has been permissive and allowed transit through their country of al Qaeda," he said. "We have any number of reports more recently that they have been supplying arms in Afghanistan to various elements in the country."
The defense chief was responding to a report in Time magazine that quoted Afghan sources as saying that a high-ranking Iranian official with ties to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, had gone into Afghanistan to organize the escape of Taliban and al Qaeda members.
Rumsfeld also said the Iranians "have not done what the Pakistan government has done -- put troops along the border and prevent terrorists from escaping out of Afghanistan into their country."
In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush described Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, as part of an "axis of evil" that supported terrorism.
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