Iran condemns US move to brand Guards 'terrorist'

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TEHRAN, Sep 27 (Reuters) Iran has said any US move to brand its elite Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organisation would be illegal and amount to a confrontation with the entire Islamic Republic.

The House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday mandating sanctions on foreign energy companies doing business with Iran and urging the US government to brand the Guards 'terrorist'.

INSA news agency carried a foreign ministry statement late on Wednesday branding any such move irresponsible and illegal.

''Any confrontation with this humane force is a confrontation with the great nation of Iran and those who are after accusing the Guards are in fact putting themselves in front of a nation of 70 million people,'' spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

A month ago, there were plans within the US administration to label the entire Guards Corps a foreign terrorist group -- the first time the United States would place the armed forces of any sovereign government on such a list.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Reuters in New York on Monday the United States was considering sanctions against the Guard's Qods unit, enabling Washington to target its financing.

US officials said the thinking was that the Qod's unit was easier to target. Washington accuses the force of inciting violence in Iraq and of training and equipping insurgents who have attacked US troops.

Iran denies this, as well as Western allegations its nuclear programme is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

The Qods force is a special unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and considered the most elite unit. There are varying estimates of its strength but it is in charge of Tehran's support for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Hosseini's statement did not mention the Qods. Although Iran's military acknowledges the existence of the force, they tend not to give details of its activities or role.

REUTERS SS DS1705

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