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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tehran pushing for pro-Iran official within Al-Qaeda: report

LONDON (AFP) - Iranian officials are pushing for a pro-Iranian activist to be promoted within the Al-Qaeda terror network's hierarchy, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Citing unnamed Western intelligence officials, the newspaper reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to persuade the Al-Qaeda leadership to choose Saif al-Adel as its official number three, after
Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

"This is an important power play by the Iranians and the prospect of Al-Qaeda and
Iran forging a close alliance is truly terrifying," an unnamed Western intelligence official was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"They have had their differences in the past, but with the survival of both Iran and Al-Qaeda now at stake they realise it is in both their interests to have closer ties."

Egyptian-born Adel, 46, has reportedly been living under house arrest in Tehran since fleeing there in late 2001 from
Afghanistan following the US-led invasion of the country.

He is a former colonel in the Egyptian special forces who joined Al-Qaeda after fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He was among the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's 22 most wanted men, a list released after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

According to the Telegraph, he has been living in a guest house in the Iranian capital with two of bin Laden's sons, Saad and Mohammed.

Iran's attempts to forge a stronger relationship with the terror network were apparently sanctioned by Ahmadinejad, the newspaper said.

If it agrees to appoint Adel as its third in command, along with appointing other Al-Qaeda figures currently in Iran to senior positions, the Iranians have apparently agreed to provide training facilities and equipment.

Iran has recently drawn the ire of the West for its refusal to stop its programme of nuclear enrichment, despite demands for it to do so from the
United Nations -- while Tehran insists it is carrying out the programme for peaceful purposes, Western powers are sceptical.

Meanwhile, a British foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Monday that Al-Qaeda is seeking to acquire technology that will allow it to carry out a nuclear attack on a Western country.

"The aspiration is there. That's something that we will continue to operate safeguards against," the spokesman said, when asked whether Al-Qaeda hoped to acquire nuclear technologies.

He stressed, however, that the Foreign Office did not believe that Al-Qaeda had acquired such technology. He could not comment on how far the terror network had gone in attempting to get hold of the technology.

The Daily Telegraph also reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are training Al-Qaeda fighters in facilities previously used by other Islamic militant groups, such as the Shiite militia Hezbollah, teaching them to carry out attacks against Western forces throughout the Middle East.

"From the evidence we have seen, Iran's links to Al-Qaeda go far deeper than simply supplying them with equipment," an unnamed senior Western intelligence official told the newspaper.

"They are allowing them the use of training facilities so that they can ensure their attacks are as effective as possible."
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