- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

From combined dispatches
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday accused Iran of helping Taliban and al Qaeda fighters flee a U.S. military assault on Afghanistan.
"We have any number of reports that Iran has been permissive and allowed transit through their country of al Qaeda," he said on ABC's "This Week."
"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, and that the Iranians have not done what the Pakistan government has done, [which is to] put troops along the border and prevent terrorists from escaping out of Afghanistan into their country," he said.
Citing sources in Herat, Afghanistan, Time magazine said that shortly before the city fell to opposition forces in November, some 250 senior Taliban and al Qaeda fighters fled off-road in a convoy of 50 vehicles, crossing into Iran.
They made their escape after a high-ranking Iranian official, connected to supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini, had been dispatched to Afghanistan to offer secret sanctuary to Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives, the magazine reported.
Mr. Rumsfeld confirmed the report and added, "We have any number of reports more recently that [Iranians] have been supplying arms in Afghanistan to various elements in the country."
U.S. officials have said Iran initially cooperated when Washington began its war on terrorism after the September attacks. But recently Tehran has been trying to exercise influence in Afghanistan that would undermine a new internationally backed broad-based Afghan government, they said.
Mr. Rumsfeld was one of three top U.S. security officials yesterday who vigorously defended President Bush's targeting of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "Axis of evil" committed to developing weapons of mass destruction.
In appearances on Sunday talk shows, the officials showed impatience with allies such as Britain and France who faulted Mr. Bush's rhetoric.
"I would say to everyone, let's step back here, and instead of worrying so much about what the president said on Tuesday night, let's put equal energy into working to make sure that these regimes don't get these weapons of mass destruction," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told "Fox News Sunday."
Mr. Bush's remarks should be read as a call for the international community "to do what all of us must do" to contain the threat posed by arms proliferation, she said.
Miss Rice pledged Washington would consult its allies as it carried out its policy.
Still, "the United States under President George W. Bush is not going to pull any punches [but will] speak with clarity about the threats," she said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the administration's leading foreign-policy centrist, personally endorsed the Bush view.
"I saw the speech before it was delivered. I commented on it a week before, and I fully supported that line," he told CBS' "Face the Nation."
"It's a good, powerful, strong line that makes the case that these three nations are representative of a group of nations that continue to act in ways that just are inconsistent with the expectations of the 21st century and are hindering our campaign against terrorism," he said.
Meanwhile, at a conference in Munich, Russia's defense minister accused his Western allies of "double standards" for failing to condemn Moscow's Chechen enemies as "terrorists" with the same vigor as they have pursued Osama bin Laden.
Sergei Ivanov also challenged Mr. Bush's targeting of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "Axis of evil" and warned that disagreement over who was a terrorist could undermine the U.S.-led coalition formed after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
"What is our greatest concern today is the existence till the present time of double political standards with regard to separatism, religious extremism and fanaticism," Mr. Ivanov told a conference whose audience included U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and other Western ministers.
"If those who blow up apartment houses in Moscow or Buinaksk in Dagestan are declared freedom fighters while in other countries such persons are referred to as terrorists, one cannot even think of forging a united anti-terrorist front," he said.
Mr. Ivanov said Moscow had its own list of "rogue states," including U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, which it accuses of funding the Chechen rebels.
"Not many people in the West like the fact that we have some commercial ties with the countries which you describe as rogue states," he told the conference.
"Well, we don't like some of your allies like Saudi Arabia or Gulf states who give finance to terrorist organizations."

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