Iran has no intention of launching a war but will respond "strongly" to any attack, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani said in an interview published Monday amid concern over its nuclear programme.
"Iran certainly will not start a war. Ahani told Croatia's Vecernji List daily. "But if we are attacked, we will respond strongly."
Israel, which accuses Tehran of trying to acquire atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian programme -- a charge Tehran strongly rejects -- has not excluded the possibility of striking Iranian nuclear sites.
Asked about Iranian investment in weaponry, Ahani said the Iranian people were "peaceful" and everything that his country was doing in this field had a "defensive character" because of "threats" against Tehran.
Iran wants to acquire Russian S-300 anti-missile systems, a move considered by Israel and the West as a threat.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters last week that Israel was mulling starting a war "next spring or summer" but has yet to make a final decision.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the charge.
Ahani, interviewed during a visit to Croatia for the inauguration of newly elected President Ivo Josipovic, also warned against the presence of "foreign military troops, including NATO... almost at all the borders" of Iran.
"Western powers also sell enormous quantities of arms to neighbouring countries and states throughout the region.
"Bearing in mind such a situation, I think that we have the right to be ready to react at any moment," Ahani added.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.