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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Ayatollah attacks US over Israel
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iran has opposed Israel since the Islamic revolution of 1979
Iran's supreme leader has urged the Muslim world to stand up to Israel and the US, criticising them for their role in the conflict in Lebanon.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US must expect a "destructive punch by Islamic nations" for its role in the crisis.

He also re-iterated Iran's support for militant group Hezbollah, but appeared to stress that the organisation operated independently from Tehran.

The remarks, carried on state TV, were his first since early in the crisis.

The ayatollah - who holds ultimate power in Iran - last month stated Iran's sympathy and support for Hezbollah, but had since remained quiet.

Iran is widely viewed by Israel and the US as a key backer of Hezbollah, and along with Syria has so far been excluded from diplomatic efforts to end the crisis.

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran says the rhetoric and shows of political support for Hezbollah in Iran have intensified in recent days.

'Devoted resistance'

Ayatollah Khamenei said the US was an accomplice in what he termed as Israel's "crimes" in Lebanon.

The American regime must expect a hard slap and a destructive punch by the Islamic nations
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iranian Supreme Leader
"Muslims everywhere must know that the only way to fight the savage wolf of Zionism and [the] great Satan's aggression is devoted resistance," the supreme leader said.

"The American regime must expect a hard slap and a destructive punch by the Islamic nations for its support of Zionist criminals," the AFP news agency reported him as saying.

He stressed Tehran's continued support for Hezbollah, and for the Lebanese and Palestinian people.

But a description of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah as a brave Arab leader was intended to refute allegations that Sheikh Nasrallah is a pawn of Iran, our correspondent says.

The assumption is that even if it wants to, Iran cannot do much militarily for Hezbollah, because Israel has bombed all possible Iranian supply routes into Lebanon, she adds.

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