Iran, Syria Reject Terrorism Allegations (AP) By NASSER KARIMI TEHRAN, Iran 02/03/04 11:44 AM)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-Top
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran and Syria rejected President Bush´s charges that
they sponsored terrorism, with an Iranian official calling the
claims groundless Thursday and the Syrian information minister
saying the democracy that Washington seeks for the Middle East
cannot come through force.
Although criticized for his stern words on Syria and Iran, Bush also
won some praise in the region for calling in his State of the Union
address for an independent Palestinian state living side by side in
peace with Israel.
South Korea, meanwhile, welcomed Bush´s softened tone toward North
Korea, hoping it would help the communist country return to talks
aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.
Bush´s speech came early Thursday in the Middle East, too late for
newspapers to publish it.
He accused Iran of being "the world´s primary state sponsor of
terror," saying Washington is working with European allies to
convince Tehran to end its nuclear programs and stop supporting
Addressing the Iranian people, he said: "As you stand for your own
liberty, America stands with you."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, in remarks
carried by the official news agency, said Bush´s words were "a
repetition of his former groundless claims and accusations. He
talked about some issues that are not related to the current
situation while closed his eyes on realities of Iran."
On a street in the Iranian capital, Ali Dehqani said Bush should
stay out of Iran´s business.
"Bush´s comment is right somehow. The people of Iran are restricted.
Iran follows nuclear technology. But it´s not his business to
intervene in Iran´s affairs," the 55-year-old man said. "Also, there
is no evidence of support of terrorism by Iran."
Bush´s speech amounted to "incitement and provocation against Iran,"
said Khaled al-Maeena, editor of the Saudi newspaper Arab News. He
described the policy as "wrong and dangerous."
Ayed al-Manna, columnist in the Al-Watan daily in Kuwait, said
Bush´s words to the Iranians were "dangerous" and he feared such a
move would lead to bloodshed. The Iranian regime is strong and it
would be "better to talk to it and develop the democracy already in
place," he said.
Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign policy
committee in the State Duma, the lower house, said Bush´s
characterization of Iran as the main center of world terrorism
showed that his speech was "written by propagandists, not analysts."
Bush said America will work with friends in the region to fight
terror while encouraging a higher standard of freedom. He said Syria
allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used
by "terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace" in the
"We expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and
open the door to freedom," Bush said.
Syrian Information Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah rejected the
"Everyone knows that Syria is cooperating in fighting terrorism, but
the definition of terrorism cannot be selective and based on
ideology and politics," he said on Al-Jazeera Arab satellite
Syria has cooperated with the West on tracking down al-Qaida
supporters but has rejected U.S. calls to crack down on Palestinian
militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as Lebanese
Hezbollah guerrillas who operate in southern Lebanon. Washington
labels the Palestinian and Lebanese groups as terrorists.
The United States also accuses Syria of allowing insurgents to cross
its border into Iraq, claims that Syria denies.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bushra Kanafani said
Damascus "has worked and is working to do everything in its power to
control" the border with Iraq.
Dakhlallah described Bush´s remarks about an independent Palestinian
state as a "positive development."
"Freedoms cannot be exported by tanks and planes, death and
destruction," he said. "The characteristics of the region and the
distinctiveness of its peoples and cultures must be understood," he
Bush also called on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to take steps toward
democracy, words that some analysts took as interference.
"We thank Mr. Bush, but we are already having elections," said al-
Maeena of Arab News. He referred to the staging later this month of
Saudi Arabia´s first municipal elections in 45 years.
"I don´t believe we need Mr. Bush to advise us," he said. "This is
an internal issue and we are working on it."
Bush only briefly mentioned North Korea during his State of the
Union address, saying Washington was "working closely with
governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear
That was a stark contrast to his speech three years ago, when he
branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq.
The absence of hostile rhetoric raised hopes for a positive response
from North Korea. Analysts have said the North was waiting to see
what Bush would say in the speech.
"We assess that President Bush´s speech reflected Washington´s will
to resolve the North´s nuclear issue through a peaceful and
diplomatic way," South Korea´s Foreign Ministry said. "Now, it´s
time for North Korea to make a positive response and for us to
resume the six-party talks soon and make concrete progress for the
resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue."
Analysts in South Korea predicted that the absence of harsh words
would help restart the nuclear talks.
"The United States appears to have carefully prepared the speech so
as not to give North Korea an excuse for not coming to the six-party
talks," Kim Sung-han, a professor at Seoul´s Institute of Foreign
Affairs and National Security, said in an interview with TV channel
Professor Koh Yu-hwan of Seoul´s Dongguk University said Bush seemed
to be giving North Korea "one more chance."
After the speech, Bush spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi and agreed that it was important to communicate to
Pyongyang "that the world was serious about the North Korean
problem," Japan´s Foreign Ministry said.
Since 2003, the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and
Russia have held three rounds of talks on the North´s nuclear
weapons programs. But no significant progress was reported. A fourth
round of talks scheduled for September did not take place because
North Korea refused to attend. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press.
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY