DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Iran, long accused by the United States of harboring al Qaeda militants, said for the first time on Friday it would place a dozen jailed suspects of Osama bin Laden’s network on trial.
But Washington immediately opposed the Iranian plan, demanding instead that the captives be handed over to their countries of origin.
Iran has never confirmed the identity of the suspects, who according to Western intelligence and Saudi sources may include al Qaeda’s security chief and a son of bin Laden.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said he could not identify them for security reasons, but told Reuters: “They are currently in prison. Their relations are cut off from outside and they are going to be tried.”
Asked if they were important figures, he said: “Al Qaeda members are very important to everyone these days, because of operating in different places.”
Reacting to Kharrazi’s comments, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “We want to see action, and the action we want to see is that they turn over those al Qaeda members in their custody to their country of origin.”
McClellan said several countries had asked Iran to turn over suspects “so that they can pursue indictments in their own country.”
“The Iranians have continued to ignore those requests,” he added.
Later on Friday, Kharrazi told reporters the suspects had threatened national security: “This is our right to put on trial anyone who has committed crimes in our territory.”
QAEDA SECURITY CHIEF
The most important al Qaeda figure that Western intelligence agencies say may be in Iran is Egyptian Saif al-Adel, the network’s security chief.
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