British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has taken up the challenge and arrives in Tehran Monday in a groundbreaking visit he says is aimed at strengthening cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Tehran has strongly condemned the attacks on the United States, which lists Iran among countries accused of backing international terrorism.
Iran said Thursday that it will not allow U.S. warplanes to use its airspace to attack Afghanistan, reiterating the Islamic republic's neutrality in any conflict.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami Sunday that efforts to combat "terrorism" should come under the umbrella of the United Nations and warned that any unilateral fight could "result in critical consequences."
Those words were underscored Monday by a statement from Iran's Grand Ayatollah, Makaerm-Shirazi, who says "The Islamic world will not stand still regarding an attack on a Muslim country."
"Makarem-Shirazi rejected the expected U.S. attack against Afghanistan under the excuse of fighting the so-called international terrorism," said a statement issued on behalf of the Grand Ayatollah, referring to the possibility of a military strike on the country where prime suspect in the attacks, Osama bin Laden, is living as a guest of the ruling Taliban.
The statement comes as the U.S. military prepares to retaliate for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington which left nearly 7,000 people dead or missing.
Makarem-Sherazi is one of handful of scholars considered by Shi'ite Muslims to be senior enough to set an example for fellow believers.
His statement included a condemnation of "terrorism," stressing that Islam does not permit attacks on civilians.
Another senior clergy member, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, said Friday that a U.S. strike on Afghanistan would fail to bring to justice those behind the attacks.
Iran has a history with the Taliban.
In 1998, the Sunni Muslim Taliban militant movement nearly provoked a war with the mainly Shi'ite Muslim Iran, when their fighters stormed an Iranian mission in Afghanistan and killed its staff.
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