Thursday, April 27, 2006

Iran Threatens Retaliation if U.S. Attacks

New York Times:


TEHRAN, April 26 — Iran's supreme religious leader vowed Wednesday that Iran would retaliate "twofold" if it were attacked by the United States over its refusal to comply with demands regarding its nuclear activities. He made his comments as other senior Iranians traveled to Vienna just days ahead of the deadline for international monitors to report on Iran's nuclear program.

"Iranian people and the Islamic regime will not invade any country, but the Americans should know that if they invade Iran, their interests around the world would be harmed," the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told workers gathered ahead of May Day, the international workers' holiday, the ISNA news agency reported.

"Iran will respond twofold to any attack," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

In escalating rhetoric, a number of Iranian officials have made similar threats in recent days, but the Bush administration has insisted it is pursuing a diplomatic path, even while vaguely holding open the distant option of imposing sanctions or taking military action if diplomacy fails.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is for energy-producing purposes and that it is entitled to pursue those interests, including enriching nuclear fuel. The United States and some of its European allies, however, believe the country has ambitions for a nuclear bomb.

On Wednesday in Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the United Nations' monitoring group, the International Atomic Energy Agency, met with the Iranian representatives, two days before Mr. ElBaradei is to report to the United Nations Security Council.

"The talks were encouraging," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said, according to Reuters. But he gave no details.

Tension between the monitoring agency and Iran became evident after Iran refused to answer the agency's questions during a trip by Mr. ElBaradei last week. A trip by Mr. ElBaradei's deputy was canceled in protest.

Iran has been relying on the vote of two its economic allies, China and Russia, at the Security Council meeting, hoping they would use their veto power to stop any punitive measures against it.

Moscow has helped Iran build its first nuclear reactor in the southern city of Bushehr and Iran has extensive oil deals with China.

China's defense minister, Cao Gangchuan, said Wednesday that he hoped Iran's nuclear issue would be settled through diplomatic means, the New Chinese News Agency reported.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of defense ministers from members of the Shanghai

Cooperation Organization, Mr. Cao said: "Under the current situation, there is still room to seek an appropriate settlement to the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiation. More efforts are needed to maintain such an important international consensus."

Mr. Cao said Iran, as a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, enjoys the right to peaceful use of nuclear power, and should also perform relevant obligations and commitment.


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