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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 16:31 GMT
Iran hits back at Bush
US Marines on operation near Kandahar
Iran opposes the West's military role in Afghanistan
Jim Muir

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has angrily denounced a statement by US President George W Bush that Iran must co-operate in the US-led war against terrorism.

Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran, Mr Rafsanjani described Mr Bush's statement as "rude and impudent", and said it would be "counter-productive".

How does [Bush] dare speak to our nation in such a rude and impudent manner?... Such threats do not have the intended results

Hashemi Rafsanjani
As much as anything else in Mr Bush's remarks, Mr Rafsanjani objected to Iran being told it must do this and it must do that.

Threats and blackmail, Mr Rafsanjani said, might work with people who were afraid of the Americans. But Iran had a long history of revolutionary resistance to American pressure, and adopting such a tone would have the opposite effect of that intended.

Influential figure

Mr Rafsanjani, twice president and currently head of an important constitutional body, the Expediency Council, is a pillar of the Iranian establishment. He was clearly voicing the view of the regime as a whole.

Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani
Hashemi Rafsanjani: A long-standing critic of US policy
Earlier, the Iranian Foreign Ministry had denounced US suggestions that Iran might have permitted fugitives from the al-Qaeda movement to cross the border from Afghanistan and seek refuge in Iran.

The ministry also took issue with the presence of Western military forces in Afghanistan, saying that their interference was a destabilising factor hampering the establishment of peace in the country.

Iran is clearly concerned about the intervention of foreign forces on its doorstep. It was critical of the Western-led campaign from the outset.

Radical groups

Iran is also aware that its own support for radical Middle East groups that Washington regards as terrorists could make it a target for eventual attention once the Afghan affair is concluded.

Both in Tehran and Washington, counsels are divided.

There are elements on both sides that would like to use the current crisis to improve relations between the two countries, and others who would resist any such effort.

It is a very fluid situation, and hard to predict which way it might go.

The BBC's Emil Petrie
"The Iranian government has denied it's a haven for Bin Laden's men"
President George W Bush
"[Iran] needs to be an active part of the coalition"
See also:

10 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush warns Iran on terror
11 Jan 02 | South Asia
Iran defends role in Afghanistan
10 Jan 02 | South Asia
US lists al-Qaeda prisoners
09 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran 'blocks UK ambassador'
20 Dec 01 | Middle East
Bush aide attacks Iran terror link
19 Nov 01 | South Asia
Iran regains role in Afghanistan
27 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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