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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 21:54 GMT
Iran vows to stay neutral
Iranian soldiers, left, guard the closed border of Shalamcheh with Iraq, about 15 miles East of Iraq's second-largest city of Basra
The Iranian government has sought to allay security fears
A week into the US-led military campaign, Tehran has reiterated its position on the war in neighbouring Iraq as being one of neutrality.

"Our policy about this war which has been imposed on the region has not changed," Iranian Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told Al-Arabiya satellite TV in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

"We remain neutral in these battles and we will maintain our neutral stance until the end of the war.

We will not allow in any way a military movement on our borders, be it in favour or against any party to this war," he said.

New Year lull

The launch of hostilities in Iraq coincided with the most important event in the Iranian calendar, the Persian New Year or Nowrooz, during which the emphasis is very much on new life and the coming of spring.

The Nowrooz celebrations lasted for a week, and were marked by special light entertainment programmes on radio and television. Few sombre topics were given airtime.

As the week drew to a close and normal media activity resumed, officials lost no time in putting the government's line on events in Iraq.

"We have repeatedly said we have no plans to enter Iraqi territory. Our officials have repeatedly said the Islamic Republic of Iran will not enter this war under any circumstances," Information Minister Ali Yunesi told Iranian TV.

Iran has taken the necessary steps to face any eventualities. So there is no need for the people to be worried.
Information Minister Ali Yunesi

He said the people of Iran should set their minds at rest.

"Iran predicted the war and has taken the necessary steps to face any eventualities. So there is no need for the people to be worried. Of course, our people have reasons to be worried about the people of Iraq. However, they should not be worried about their own security".

Mr Yunesi warned the US leadership that the campaign was likely to last much longer than it had hoped, and advised it to get out of Iraq sooner rather than later.

"If the Americans and the British were to save themselves, they could do nothing better than to stop the war. It will be better if they end the war now rather than in several months' time. America's problems will not be resolved with the elimination of Saddam," he said.

Friday protests

Tehran has made clear that it will not allow the Iran-based forces of the Badr Corps, affiliated to the Iraqi Shia opposition movement - the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - to operate against Iraq from Iranian territory.

The Iranian News Agency (IRNA) meanwhile carried a report on a telephone conversation between Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

There is a demon on the other side of the world

Who is involved in deceit and mischief.

The demon is against peace;

While its heart is black,

Its house is white.

It carries the flag of peace,

But its plans are mischievous.

I remember when Iran was at war,

It was on the side of our enemy.

Excerpt from song broadcast on Iranian state radio

Mr Kharrazi was quoted as saying that any intervention in Iraq's internal affairs would only complicate matters.

On Thursday, Iranian radio broadcast a 10-minute announcement urging people to take part in the next day's Friday prayers and associated anti-war demonstrations.

The announcement included a clip of a recent speech by the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and featured slogans such as "The entire people of the world are taking part in protests".

Iranian TV flashed up an announcement by the Islamic Publicity Organisation calling on people to attend the rallies.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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