Iran leader says US policy has failed in region

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TEHRAN, Sep 14 (Reuters) Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today US President George W Bush's West Asia policies had failed and he and others would one day be put on trial for ''the tragedies they have created in Iraq''.

''America has failed in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. America's policies have failed in the Middle East region,'' Khamenei told worshippers at Tehran University in a speech broadcast live on state television.

Washington accuses Shi'ite Muslim Iran of providing funds, arms and training to Iraqi Shi'ite militants and of supporting terrorism across the Middle East.

Iran denies the charge and blames the US-led invasion in 2003 for the bloodshed between Iraq's majority Shi'ite and minority Sunni Arabs.

''I am certain that one day Bush and senior American officials will be tried in an international court for the tragedies they have created in Iraq,'' Khamenei said.

Thousands of people gathered in central Tehran to hear the supreme leader, who has the last say in all state matters, mark the first Friday prayer of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

''America's power in the region is waning ... they (US) are looking forward to pulling out of Iraq,'' Khamenei said.

The mass audience, including senior state officials, clerics and wheelchair-bound veterans of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, responded with chants of ''Death to America. Islam is victorious''.

''PSYCHOLOGICAL WAR'' Iran and the United States cut diplomatic ties shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. They have held rounds of talks in Baghdad to find ways to restore security in Iraq but relations remain very strained.

Khamenei condemned the Middle East peace process, Israel and some European countries as well as the United States as he described a ''psychological war'' he said had been waged against the Islamic republic of Iran.

Tehran and Washington are also at loggerheads over Iran's nuclear work. The United States says Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian programme. Iran denies this, saying it needs the technology to generate electricity.

Iran has so far refused to halt sensitive nuclear work, despite US threats to ratchet up pressure with new UN sanctions. Two rounds of sanctions have already been imposed.

Washington is leading a drive for a third sanctions resolution.

World powers are set to meet in Washington on September 21 to discuss a new resolution.

China, Russia, and possibly Germany, are reluctant to take further punitive action because of a deal between Iran and the UN watchdog meant to bring transparency to Iran's atomic work.

The Bush administration plans more unilateral measures to pressure Iran, including sanctions on the Guards' Quds force, blamed for stoking violence in Iraq.

However, Khamenei said Iran would not yield to pressure, including further sanctions.

''The Iranian nation has resisted sanctions since the revolution. Under sanctions, Iran has moved forward ... We have developed our nuclear work despite sanctions,'' said Khamenei.

REUTERS SBC BST1804

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