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. Ex-president urges Iran to beware of 'US dangers'
TEHRAN, Sept 4 (AFP) Sep 04, 2007
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday urged Iran to preserve national unity and beware of being provoked in the face of the "dangers" posed by arch enemy the United States.

"They (the United States) made a big issue of the nuclear issue and they are mobilising public opinion, their Greater Middle East plan is still on the table," Rafsanjani told the opening session of Iran's Assembly of Experts.

"Because of the dangers threatening us, we should pay attention to the supreme leader's decree for national unity and Islamic cohesion," Rafsanjani told the body before it elected him its new chairman.

"Now they have started an anti-Shiite wave and we should be careful not to fall into their traps," added Rafsanjani. "We should not let ourselves be provoked and give an excuse for the enemy."

Rafsanjani had been acting head of the Assembly of Experts, which supervises the work of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following the death in July of its chairman Ayatollah Ali Meshkini.

President from 1989-1997, Rafsanjani has always shown a strong pragmatic streak and his pleas for vigilance contrast with the more confrontational rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The president has repeatedly in recent weeks dismissed the prospect of US military action against Iran over its nuclear programme, saying he was confident this would never happen.

Washington accuses Tehran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons -- an allegation vehemently denied by the Islamic republic -- and has never ruled out taking military action against it.

Rafsanjani was soundly thrashed by Ahmadinejed in the 2005 presidential elections but made something of a comeback last year by polling the highest number of votes in the Assembly of Experts polls.

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