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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 14:13 GMT
Iran warns US against attack
Iranian man and anti-US mural
Ayatollah said Iranians must be prepared for attack
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned the US that it would regret any action it launched upon his country.

His speech, punctuated by cries of "Death to America" from an audience of air force chiefs, represents the latest salvo in the war of words between the US and Iran.

It is not only the Iranian people who hate you, but the whole world

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the US

Tehran and Washington have exchanged insults and threats since US President George W Bush described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address on 29 January.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared to adopt a more conciliatory tone earlier this week and said talks were possible with those three countries.

Yet on Wednesday CIA director George Tenet said Iran remained "a serious concern because of its across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities".

Iran appears to have remained angered by the comments of US leaders.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei criticised other Islamic states for lack of action

Ayatollah Khamenei said on Thursday: "If anyone tries to attack this people and threaten their interests, the reply of the people of Iran will be keen, and the aggressors will regret their action.

"The Iranian people and the whole population, as well as the various branches of the armed forces, must attain unity, be vigilant and be totally prepared to reply to any attack."

The ayatollah, who last week denounced America as the "Great Satan", told Washington: "It is not only the Iranian people who hate you, but the whole world, as an oppressive regime, arrogant, misusing its strength and hypocritical.


"The Iranian people detest a regime which interferes, wants domination, waves the flag of democracy, freedom and human rights but defends the Israeli regime, which is totally opposed to human rights, and in Afghanistan treats inhumanely prisoners from other nations."

Ayatollah Khamenei also criticised other Islamic states, saying that "because of their lethargy and the fact that they are not united", they are threatened with a "crusade".

US Marine in Kandahar
"War on terror" not over
1. Iraq: Suspected of wanting to pursue programmes to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and missile developments
2. Iran: Listed by US as state sponsor of terrorism. Washington says Tehran plans to develop weapons of mass destruction
3. North Korea: The US's main concern has been missiles and other weapons programmes and willingness to export sensitive technology

See also:
Detailed clickable map

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and other officials have also condemned Mr Bush but it appears that there are differences between the reformist-minded government and the spiritual leader.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Iran was considering whether to expelformer Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and was discussing the matter with Afghanistan's interim government.

"Iran is not a place for any individual or group to make mischievous acts or any other action," the agency quoted Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari as saying when asked if Mr Hekmatyar's continued presence in Iran would create tension with the new Afghanistan administration.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani says Iran has suggested to European Union countries that they create "a joint cell" to fight terrorism.

He told the Spanish El Pais newspaper that Iran was "willing to co-operate with the international community to fight terrorism" but he insisted the campaign should be "under the aegis of the United Nations, not the United States".

The BBC's Jim Muir
"He took the occasion to urge the armed forces to be alert and fully prepared"
See also:

07 Feb 02 | Americas
CIA missile 'hits al-Qaeda leaders'
06 Feb 02 | Americas
US softens line on 'evil axis'
31 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran lashes out at Bush
30 Jan 02 | Americas
'Suspects' condemn Bush speech
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Iran accuses Bush of war-mongering
19 Jan 02 | South Asia
US warns Iran on Afghan militants
27 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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