Iran watching US troops, says in missile range

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TEHRAN, Sep 24 (Reuters) US troop movements are being monitored by Iran using satellites and other technology and would be in range of Iranian missiles if an attack was launched, a top Iranian military official said.

In remarks published by Iranian newspapers today, Yahya Rahim Safavi, an advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also said he did not expect any US attack because America was too bogged down in Iraq.

Washington has refused to rule out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to end its atomic work, which the West says is aimed at making bombs despite Tehran's denials.

Speculation about a US attack has been spurred on by comments by French officials who have said an extra diplomatic push was needed to avoid the possibility of a war with Iran.

''Iran has now a strong intelligence system and missiles. We are closely watching the foreigners' moves in neighbouring countries by highly advanced satellite technology and advanced radars. If they enter our airspace or our territorial waters, they will get a fair response,'' Rahim Safavi said.

''It seems very unlikely that foreign troops in the region could start another attack because they have been busy with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and they should focus on that,'' he added in comments carried by Iran Daily.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a US television interview on Sunday his country was not heading for war with the United States.

Iranian officials regularly dismiss talk of a war, saying US and other Western states are playing ''psychological'' games to make Iran give up its legitimate atomic activities.

Rahim Safavi was commander of the ideologically driven Revolutionary Guards until September, when he was replaced and appointed adviser to Khamenei, Iran's top authority.

''Today our missile industry is in very good shape. Americans cannot confront our missile capabilities. Americans should know that their 200,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are in Iran's range,'' the daily Tehran-e Emrooz quoted Rahim Safavi as saying.

Iran showed off what it said were new, home-made missiles during a military parade on Saturday.

Iran often declares it has made technological advancements in its weaponry that could confront any US military threat but Western experts say Iranian weaponry would be no match for American technology in any conventional war.

But they also say Iranian forces could still deliver a punch using so-called ''asymmetrical'' tactics, such as guerrilla-style attacks to disrupt shipping in the Gulf oil shipping lanes or supporting insurgents against US forces in Iraq or elsewhere.

Washington already accuses Iran of backing militants in Iraq although Tehran denies the charge and says violence in its neighbour is the result of the US occupation which should end.

REUTERS SZ BD1323

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