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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Army Will Cut Off Hand Of Aggressor

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
by Pierre Celerier
Tehran, Iran (AFP) Apr 19, 2006
Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Tuesday that Iran would "cut off the hand of any aggressor", as the Islamic republic's army put on a show of strength in their annual military parade.

"The enemies know that the Iranian army ranks among the most powerful armies in the world," Ahmadinejad said in his speech marking national armed forces day.

"The powerful army of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in the service of peace and security and is no threat to anyone. But in the face of enemies, it is like a meteorite," said Ahmadinejad.

"It will cut off the hand of any aggressor and leave the enemy covered in shame," he said at the start of the parade, held close to the mausoleum of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"The army must always be equipped and ready, and have mastered the latest technology, to respond to any aggression. We want peace, security and progress for all people, in particular the countries of the region and our neighbours."

Iran is under mounting international pressure over its disputed nuclear programme but is refusing to comply with a UN Security Council demand to freeze sensitive uranium enrichment work by April 28.

The country insists its programme is peaceful, but enrichment can be extended from making reactor fuel to the production of warheads.

The parade was another opportunity for the country to show its military might in the face of mounting speculation that US President George W. Bush is considering military action against Iran -- a country he has lumped into an "axis of evil".

On show was a array of conventional battlefield weapons -- including freshly painted Soviet-era tanks, mobile rocket launchers, short-range missiles, camouflaged trail motorcycles, pilotless aircraft and helicopters.

Next to the podium seating Ahmadinejad and top military brass was the simple slogan: "We can".

Iran's medium-range ballistic missiles -- Shahab-3s which are capable of hitting Israel -- were not on display. They are operated by the Revolutionary Guards, a separate military force to the regular army.

"We are not seeking a confrontation but, if it is imposed on us, we are prepared for it," influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said at the end of a visit to Kuwait.

"The consequences of such an attack will be very grave and they (the Americans) will not benefit from it," Rafsanjani said.

The annual military parade came as the five permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany were to meet in Moscow to discuss the nuclear crisis.

The United States has said punitive measures such as freezing Iranian assets or imposing travel restrictions on senior officials will be on the agenda of the meeting.

"The 5+1 meeting in Moscow is more important for the participating countries than for us, because if they do not act wisely and make a mistake, they are the ones who will suffer losses," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

"The 5+1 participants should bear in mind that whenever the Islamic republic of Iran has been under pressure, the result has been the reverse," he added.

The Security Council is awaiting a report due by April 28 from Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Iran's compliance with its demands to freeze enrichment.

The fear over Iran's nuclear programme articulated by the United States is shared by the other participants at Tuesday's talks, but their approaches to eliminating the concerns vary considerably.

Britain, France and Germany -- the "EU-3" -- appear to support steps against Iran such as possible imposition of sanctions, but would be reticent in the extreme about the prospect of military action should sanctions fail to achieve the desired result.

Russia and China say they fully share opposition to Iran acquiring the capability to build its own nuclear weapons. Both countries however have extensive commercial and strategic links to Tehran and have so far opposed all talk of sanctions.

Concerns about the standoff with a key OPEC producer helped oil prices to new record highs Tuesday. Benchmark Brent North Sea crude hit 72.20 dollars a barrel in London.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Some Experts Suspect Iranian Nuclear Program More Advanced Than Thought
Washington (AFP) Apr 19, 2006
A one-sentence assertion made by the Iranian president has provoked such surprise and concern among international nuclear inspectors they are planning to confront Tehran about it this week, The New York Times reported Monday.

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