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. Iran issues sharp warning to US over any military action
TEHRAN (AFP) Jan 19, 2005
Iran accused the United States Wednesday of trying to disrupt its nuclear negotiations with the European Union by evoking the threat of a military strike, and warned Washington it would respond to any "unwise measure."

"With reliance on enormous popular support, diplomatic capacity and full military capability, the Islamic Republic of Iran will firmly respond to any unwise measure or plan," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement responding to "recent comments by US officials".

On Monday US President George W. Bush said he could not rule out a resort to military action if the United States failed to persuade Iran to abandon a nuclear energy programme it charges is a cover for developing the bomb.

Iran vehemently denies that it is developing nuclear weapons.

"I hope we can solve it diplomatically, but I won't ever take any option off the table," Bush told US network NBC.

US secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice called Tuesday for world action to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons, and repeated a threat to haul Tehran before the UN Security Council for sanctions.

"We see such moves as a psychological campaign and political pressure," Asefi said.

He said one of the aims of the US administration was "not to help and enourage Europe to peacefully settle some disagreements through diplomacy and talks, but to disrupt the Iran-EU nuclear talks by pretending they are unsuccessful."

The EU "Big Three" -- Britain, France and Germany -- have been spearheading diplomatic efforts with Iran and are in the midst of crucial talks aimed at finding a long-term solution that would ease international worries.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is merely directed at generating electricity, but has suspended its sensitive work on the nuclear fuel cycle while the EU talks are in progress.

"We recommend the new American foreign minister avoids repeating past mistakes by reviewing America's wrong and unsuccessful policies of unilateralism and oppression," Asefi said of Rice.

"The United States of America has fallen into an abyss of several crises as a result of the wrong attitude of hardline neo-conservatives. There is no way out unless it reviews and corrects past mistakes."

The foreign ministry statement also followed a report in the New Yorker magazine Monday that US commandos had been operating inside Iran since mid-2004 to search out potential targets for attack -- something the magazine said could come as early as mid-2005.

The Pentagon said the report was "riddled with errors."

Iran also dismissed the report, asserting that "American commandos are not able to enter Iran so easily to spy."

"It would simplistic to accept such an idea," said Ali Agha Mohammadi, a spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

"We know our borders," he added, also dismissing the report of US covert actions as part of a "psychological campaign" directed against Iran's clerical regime and "not even worth thinking about".

Influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also declared late Tuesday that Iran would not be intimidated by "foreign enemies" and cautioned Washington against dreaming of an attack.

"We are not afraid of foreign enemies' threats and sanctions, since they know well that throughout its Islamic and ancient history, Iran has been no place for adventurism," Rafsanjani, a possible contender in the June presidential election, told the state news agency IRNA.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been investigating Iran for two years. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said there is no proof that Iran is hiding weapons work but that "the jury is still out."

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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