Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has taken to Twitter to berate the USA secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, after reports emerged that the top American diplomat has accused Tehran of having links with al-Qaeda.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of having secret ties with the terrorist al-Qaeda network and imposed new sanctions on several senior Iranian officials.
But Pompeo, a former Central Intelligence Agency chief, said that Iran in recent years has permitted Al-Qaeda greater freedom of movement including issuing travel documents, and that the group has "centralized leadership" in Tehran.
On Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed Pompeo's accusations as "warmongering lies".
With eight days left in President Donald Trump's term, Pompeo said Iran had allowed Al Qaeda, the group blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., to establish a new operational headquarters there despite scepticism about the claim within the United States intelligence community and among independent analysts.
During the speech, Pompeo also confirmed a New York Times report that al-Qaida's number two, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed in Tehran a year ago.
"Al-Masri's presence inside Iran points to the reason that we're here today".
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, U.S., January 12, 2021.
Al Qaeda's previous base was in Afghanistan, where it plotted the 9/11 attacks and was eventually ousted after the USA invasion in 2001.
He also announced a reward of up to $7 million under for information leading to location or identification of Iran based al Qaeda leader Muhammad Abbatay - also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi.
President Donald Trump's hawkish top diplomat stopped short of urging military action, saying: "If we did have that option, if we chose to do that, there's a much greater risk in executing it".
Pompeo added that he was imposing sanctions on Iran-based Al-Qaeda leaders and three leaders of Al-Qaeda Kurdish battalions. Parsi said, adding that Pompeo could have then used the al-Qaida case to justify Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran. But reports have surfaced over the years of al Qaeda operatives hiding out in Iran.
As a clerical state based on Shiite Islam, Iran is considered ideologically opposed to extremist groups like al-Qaida, which adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam and have traditionally been supported by Iran's arch-enemy Saudi Arabia.
Al-Masri was on the FBI's Most Wanted List for his role in the bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which left 200 people dead, including 12 Americans.