Feb 9, 2007

ran warns will hit back at US if attacked

TEHRAN (AFP) - Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that Iran would hit back at American interests worldwide if the United States attacked the Islamic republic to thwart its nuclear programme.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

"They should not intimidate the Iranian people with these things, since the United States has previously attacked Iran," Khamenei said, referring to repeated speculation that Washington plans to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

"The enemies understand well that the Iranian nation will give a comprehensive response to the aggressors and their interests worldwide," Khamenei added, according to state-run television.

Although the United States has said it wants the standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme to be solved through diplomacy, Washington has never ruled out military action to thwart Tehran's atomic drive.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, a charge denied by Tehran which insists its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.

Khamenei did not specify what such retaliation would involve, but he expressed confidence that Iran's arch-enemy would have the "sanity" not to be tempted to launch a strike.

"We believe that no one will make such an irrational and erroneous move and will not jeopardize his nation's interests," Khamenei told air force commanders during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"Of course some say the US President (George W. Bush) does not think about the consequences of his actions, but some sanity could be put into the head of even these people," Khamenei added Thursday.

"The American politicians and analysts know that the Iranian people have never let any aggression go unanswered," he said.

The Iranian supreme leader, 67, also scoffed at rumours on US websites that he was gravely ill or even dead.

"The enemies of the Islamic republic make different rumours about death or sickness to weaken the spirit of the Iranian nation for a few days, but they do not know that they are not facing a single person, but a nation."

He said Iranians would show "their alertness" in mass street rallies planned for Sunday, the culmination of celebrations marking the 28th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"This is the day when the American and the Israeli and British intelligence people get angry and worried. This year, with the glorious popular presence, our enemies will be inflamed and dismayed."

"Attacking Iran will in no way be easy, and it will cost the United States dearly," former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying in Iran's clerical nerve-centre of Qom.

"It should expect its current problems in Iraq to increase 10 times if it attacks Iran," said Rafsanjani, who currently heads Iran's legislative arbitration body.

His comments came on the second and final day of war games by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, who Thursday successfully test-fired a land-to-sea missile with a range of 350 kilometres (210 miles).

On Wednesday, Iran said the Guards successfully test-fired a new Russian-made air defence missile system, whose delivery last month sparked bitter US criticism.

Iran, which is now under UN sanctions for its repeated defiance of the West over its nuclear programme, has repeatedly vowed it will not cave in to the key demand that it freeze uranium enrichment.

But it also insists that negotiations are the way to resolve the standoff, and Tehran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is attending the annual Munich security conference along with a host of Western leaders this week.

Meanwhile, Khamenei's envoy Ali Akbar Velayati was in Moscow to discuss the deadlock with Russian leaders.

"You are seeing the Iranian side's response, a return message," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax agency. "Steps taken by Russia of course have Iran's support."

*This article is taken from AFP News Agency

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