Iran threatens to strike at US targets if attacked
Tehran, Apr 27 : Iran vowed to strike at US interests worldwide if it is attacked by the United States, which is keeping military options open in case diplomacy fails to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the threat two days before the UN nuclear watchdog reports on whether Iran is meeting Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment.
Iran says it will not stop enrichment, which it says is purely for civilian purposes and not part of what the United States says is a clandestine effort to make atomic bombs.
''The Americans should know that if they assault Iran their interests will be harmed anywhere in the world that is possible,'' Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television yesterday.
''The Iranian nation will respond to any blow with double the intensity,'' he said.
Washington, backed by Britain and France, has been pushing for sanctions if, as it expects, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran has flouted UN demands.
But Russia and China, the UN Security Council's other two veto-holding permanent members, oppose any embargo.
Consequently the Western powers next week will not push a sanctions resolution. Instead they are working on a resolution that would make legally binding previous demands contained in a March council statement.
If Iran does not comply after a reasonable period of time, the United States and its allies will try to introduce punitive measures in a subsequent resolution, a council diplomat said.
Iran's nuclear energy head, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, held talks with IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei in Vienna yesterday.
''The talks were encouraging,'' Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told Reuters, adding the two sides discussed ways to resolve outstanding issues with the IAEA. He gave no details.
But a Vienna-based diplomat said before the meeting it would be too late to alter decisively the IAEA report, due to be submitted to the Security Council by Friday, because inspectors would not have time to verify issues.
''All ElBaradei can do is note any information received and say he could not assess whether it was significant,'' said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.
ElBaradei visited Tehran this month but his proposal that Iran ''pause'' enrichment was rebuffed, diplomats have said.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw sought to enlist China's backing yesterday, saying Beijing should use its growing diplomatic muscle to solve disputes with international partners.
''China's support for this goal, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has been valuable already and will be increasingly crucial in securing international consensus in the face of Iran's intransigence,'' Straw said in London.
The United States called on Iran to pursue diplomacy and warned that a confrontational approach would affect UN Security Council deliberations.
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli urged Iran to address international concerns and ''match our commitment to diplomacy with the actions of a responsible state.'' ''So far every step they've taken has been in the opposite direction, has been one of hostility and confrontation,'' he told reporters in Washington.
In response to the US refusal to rule out military action, Iran has warned Washington that its forces in the region were vulnerable.
Iran's war games in the Gulf this month were widely seen as a veiled threat to a vital oil shipping route.
''The security of the Persian Gulf is very well tied up to the world's economic affairs and it would be quite natural for Iran not to sit idle vis-a-vis any military adventure,'' Iranian legislator Alaeddin Broujerdi told reporters in London.
Iran said Tuesday it would suspend relations with the IAEA if sanctions were imposed. Diplomats said this could mean withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday reiterated his view Iran could review its NPT and IAEA commitments if it saw no dividends from abiding by international protocols.
''We hope they fulfill their duties and make it unnecessary for the Islamic Republic of Iran to reconsider its relations with them,'' Ahmadinejad said.