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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Iranian leader: No help for US
Ayatollah Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran would not join a US-led coalition
By Jim Muir in Tehran

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has launched a bitter attack on the United States, accusing it of being insincere and unqualified to lead a global drive against terrorism.

He said Washington was trying to exploit the current crisis for its own ends, and made it clear Iran would provide no help of any sort for an attack on Afghanistan.

Many on the side of America are more dangerous than the entire terrorists of the world

Ayatollah Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei was addressing a crowd of hardliners, who chanted death to America - the first time the chant has been heard in Tehran since the 11 September atrocities in New York and Washington.

He said that America's hands were dirty from the acts committed by its ally Israel, over the years and in recent days.

As for President Bush's demand that all countries must be either with Washington or with the terrorists, the ayatollah said that the most vicious terrorists were with America.

Conversely, he said, "we are not with you, nor are we with the terrorists".

Hidden agenda

President Khatami
President Khatami has also criticised President Bush
Washington had another agenda in preparing an attack on Afghanistan, he said - to spread its influence through central Asia. Iran would in no way help such an attack on its long suffering and oppressed neighbour.

He made clear that Iran would not take part in any US-led global drive against terrorism.

And it would make its participation in any United Nations-led campaign conditional on it not being influenced by the US or other world powers.

Hardening tone

This was a sharp hardening of tone from the Iranian leadership.

It follows an emergency meeting on Tuesday, called by Ayatollah Khamenei himself, of the country's Supreme National Security Council, which brings together all the top military and political officials.

It has affected the normally mild-mannered reformist President, Mohammad Khatami, too.

In an uncharacteristic personal attack he strongly criticised President Bush's stark division of the world into friends or foes.

He accused him of falling prey to the arrogance of power.

The BBC's Jim Muir
"Iran's help is seen as vital"
See also:

17 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran condemns attacks on US
26 Sep 01 | Middle East
EU woos Iran with coalition deal
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran to be shown terror evidence
10 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran and EU hold historic talks
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