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Iran refuses to share Qaida secrets with US

Tehran, Oct. 29 (Reuters): Iran said today it would not share intelligence with the US about al Qaida members it is holding and dismissed charges that anti-American fighters were slipping across its borders into Iraq.

US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said yesterday Washington was prepared to resume limited contacts with the Iranian government but that relations would not improve until Tehran shared intelligence on al Qaida.

“We don’t have any relations with American security services so there is no reason to do anything on this issue,” government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh said.

President Mohammad Khatami rebuffed a call by President George W. Bush yesterday for Iran and Syria to tighten their borders to stop fighters crossing into Iraq. “The accusations are not new, they have always made such baseless charges,” Khatami said.

The US has attributed an upsurge in violence in Iraq in part to foreign fighters that the American military has numbered between 1,000 and 3,000.

Washington broke off talks with Tehran over Iran’s neighbours Afghanistan and Iraq in May after accusing Iran of sheltering al Qaida members behind bombings in Saudi Arabia on May 12 which killed 35 people, including nine Americans.

Iran denies cooperating with al Qaida and says it has caught and extradited hundreds of suspected members of Osama bin Laden’s network who fled from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last two years.

Ramazanzadeh noted that Armitage’s comments on resuming talks with Iran were the first such remarks from a US official for some time but added that Tehran was waiting for Washington to take “practical steps” to improve relations. “It is not possible to threaten a country, to block its assets, to accuse it and then want talks,” he said. Washington broke ties with Tehran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Low-level talks have occasionally taken place in third countries to discuss specific issues.

but neither side has made a concerted effort to normalise relations.

In Iran, restoring ties with the country religious leaders refer to as the“Great Satan” is considered a virtually taboo subject and government officials rarely confirm that contacts with U.S. officials have taken place.

The U.S. administration has described Iran as part of an ”axis of evil” with Iraq and North Korea and accused it on trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Political analysts in Tehran said Iran's recent decision to agree to tougher inspections of its nuclear sites and suspend uranium enrichment may have encouraged Washington to resume its dialogue with Tehran.

Events in Iraq, where anti-American attacks blamed by some on foreign fighters show little sign of fizzling out, are another motivating factor for Washington, they said.

Tehran last week handed over to the United Nations Security Council a list of more than 200 names of al Qaeda members it has recently extradited to their home countries.

Washington dismissed the Iranian move, saying Iran should turn over all al Qaeda members to the United States, their country of origin or third countries.

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