New York Times: Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the United States on Thursday that Iran would retaliate against American interests worldwide if it was attacked. It was the latest volley in an escalating war of rhetoric between the countries. The New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
Published: February 9, 2007
TEHRAN, Feb. 8 Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the United States on Thursday that Iran would retaliate against American interests worldwide if it was attacked. It was the latest volley in an escalating war of rhetoric between the countries.
Speaking to a group of air force commanders about rumors of an imminent American military strike, Ayatollah Khamenei said, Iranian people should not get scared of such issues, the Iranian Student News Agency reported. Our enemies know very well that any aggression will have a response from all sides by Iranian people on their interests all over the world.
He added, No one would commit such a blunder and jeopardize the interests of his country and people.
Irans Revolutionary Guards also said Thursday that as part of a war games exercise, they had successfully test-fired a land-to-sea missile capable of sinking large warships.
These missiles, with a maximum range of 220 miles, can hit different kinds of big warships throughout the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean, Ali Fadavi, a senior Revolutionary Guards naval commander, said on state television.
The speech by Ayatollah Khamenei was his first major public appearance since the United Nations Security Council approved limited sanctions on Dec. 23 because of Irans refusal to halt efforts to enrich uranium. The United States and some European countries accuse Iran of having a secret weapons program, but Iran contends that its nuclear development is for peaceful purposes only.
Ayatollah Khamenei did not mention Irans nuclear program, but he brushed off the sanctions as insignificant. The United States and some other countries have imposed sanctions on Iran for many years now, he said. But we achieved great scientific and technological progress under such circumstances. So they cannot scare this great nation with sanctions.
Ayatollah Khamenei also dismissed rumors that he was suffering from a serious illness, saying they were aimed at weakening the resolve of the Iranian people.
The war games by Iran, the second it has staged this year, seemed to be a response to the naval buildup by the United States in the Persian Gulf. President Bush has dispatched two aircraft carriers to the region and provided antimissile batteries to some Persian Gulf states.
In Seville, Spain, where Robert M. Gates, the American defense secretary, met Thursday with NATO defense ministers, he seemed to play down the significance of the strong language from Iran.
My impression is that they make threats like this from time to time, Mr. Gates said. We have no intention of attacking Iran.
He noted that, obviously, when it comes to things like these tests, we watch them closely. But he concluded, Other than that, I think, its just another day in the Persian Gulf.
A special envoy for the ayatollah met in Moscow on Thursday with President Valdimir V. Putin and his national security adviser, Igor S. Ivanov. The envoy, Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, was expected to deliver a formal response to a message from Mr. Putin that Mr. Ivanov brought to Tehran in January. The substance of the letters was not divulged.
Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Seville, Spain.