The US announced Thursday that Iran and Cuba remained on the blacklist of terrorism-supporting countries, while al Qaeda is still the biggest threat to the West. Iran's foreign minister (pictured) rejected the charges.
AFP - Al-Qaeda, using tribal areas of Pakistan, poses the greatest terrorist threat to the West, while Iran is the world's "most active state sponsor of terrorism," the US government said Thursday.
In an annual report, the State Department said Al-Qaeda was recovering some of the potency it had before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, as it lumped Iran with Syria, Sudan and Cuba as sponsors of terrorism.
"Al-Qaeda remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners," even though its structures have weakened and public support has waned, the report said.
And it warned that Al-Qaeda "has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities" by using the lawless Pakistan border areas, replacing key leaders, and restoring some "central control" by its top leadership.
The report said that since the September 11 attacks, Al-Qaeda (AQ) and its allies have moved from Afghanistan into Pakistan where they have built "a safe haven to hide, train terrorists, communicate with followers, plot attacks, and send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan."
It said Pakistan's border region, which lies outside the control of President Asif Ali Zardari's government, now "provided AQ many of the benefits it once derived from its base across the border in Afghanistan."
Counterterrorism experts released figures showing attacks in Pakistan had more than doubled from 890 in 2007 to 1,839 last year, with the number killed rising from 1,340 people to 2,293 in the same period.
"As you see from the numbers, that threat (to the Pakistani state and its people) is escalating. Of course we're deeply concerned," acting coordinator of counterterrorism Ronald Schlicher told reporters.
While experts can count the number of attacks in Pakistan, Schlicher said, they are hard pressed to quantify the extent of international plots Al-Qaeda might be hatching in the border areas which lie outside government control.
"That's very, very hard to get at," he said, but added: "We have a real sense that it's happening."
The State Department report said "Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism" over its alleged role in planning and financing attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia.
It singled out the Qods Force, an elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as the Islamic republic's main means to cultivate and back terrorists in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It added that the Qods Force trained the Taliban "on small unit tactics, small arms, explosives, and indirect fire weapons."
The report also took to task Syria, an Iranian ally which it said also supported Lebanon's Hezbollah as well as Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups. Some of the leaders of those groups are based in Damascus.
"Throughout the year, Syria continued to strengthen ties with fellow state sponsor of terrorism, Iran," the report said.
As for Sudan, it said the Khartoum government generally believed it was in its interest to cooperate with US counter-terrorism efforts, but yet allowed groups like Hamas to operate on its territory, the report said.
It said that "Al-Qaeda-inspired elements" were also in Sudan.
The US said communist Cuba, which has been under a US embargo for decades, continued to be "provide safe haven to several terrorists" such as members of the Basque separatist group ETA and the Colombian rebel group FARC.
But it added that some members of these groups stayed in Cuba last year after having arrived "in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Spain and Colombia."
North Korea was dropped from the blacklist in October 2008 after it struck a verbal deal with the United States aimed at verifying its nuclear disarmament, even though a formal agreement was never sealed.
Date created : 2009-05-01