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. Iran praises militia for defending nuclear programme
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 02, 2005
A top Iranian cleric praised the country's Basij militia Friday for being instrumental in what he said was a climbdown by the West over Iran's nuclear programme.

"One of the features of the Basij is resisting pressure, and this has made the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors retreat from re-issuing a harsh resolution against Iran," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at weekly prayers in Tehran.

Last month the IAEA put off sending Iran to the UN Security Council to give more time for diplomatic efforts aimed at winning assurances the Islamic republic is not using an atomic energy drive as a cover for weapons development.

Iran has claimed victory, although there is no end in sight to the crisis given continued Western pressure against the regime's determination to hold on to sensitive fuel cycle technology that could be diverted to military purposes.

But Ayatollah Jannati, who head the powerful Guardians Council political watchdog, asserted that "because of Basij, nuclear energy has become an element of pride for our people, country and the system."

"The enemy has received the message of the Basij to preserve the country's borders," he said, referring to last month's series of human chain demonstrations by the militia.

Headed by commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, the nine million strong Basij acts as the populist guardian of the regime against domestic or foreign "threats" and has bases in all mosques, institutions, ministries, universities and large state-run industries.

The militia was also seen as having played a key role in the shock June presidential election win of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, himself a veteran of the Revolutionary Guards and who has been calling for the promotion of a "Basij culture".

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