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Iran leader says US, Israel behind Iraq kidnaps
Updated: 2004-07-13 16:03

Iran's Supreme Leader said on Tuesday he believed the United States and Israel, rather than Muslims, were behind the kidnapping and killing of foreign nationals in Iraq.

"We seriously suspect the agents Americans and Israelis in conducting such horrendous terrorist moves," the official IRNA news agency quoted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying in a meeting with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

"(We) cannot believe that the people who kidnap Philippine nationals, for instance, or beheaded U.S. nationals are Muslims."

Radical Islamic groups opposed to the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq have claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of foreign nationals there.

A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq has demanded the withdrawal of Filipino troops from Iraq by July 20 in return for the freedom of kidnapped Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz.

Iran frequently trades barbed rhetoric with its arch foes the United States and Israel, which accuse Tehran of sponsoring terrorist groups and developing nuclear arms.

But Khamenei said Iran was committed to fighting terrorism.

"Terrorism is a loathsome, horrible phenomenon and the Islamic Republic of Iran has deeply felt its consequences ever since many years ago and that is the reason why we consider the campaign against terrorism not only essential but also of great importance," he said.

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