Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Iran Says Military Threats Not in US Interests

Iran's Revolutionary Guards commander said on Wednesday the United States should accept Iran's position as a regional power, adding that sanctions or military threats would not be in U.S. or European interests.

Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander-in-chief of the Guards, was speaking to state television during a week of naval war games in which Iranian forces have announced the successful testing of new weapons, including missiles and torpedoes.

Iran says the war games in the Gulf, which began on Friday, are a show of defensive strength, but analysts say the timing during a nuclear standoff with the West offers a reminder that Iran could threaten a vital world oil shipping route.

"The Americans should accept Iran as a great regional power and they should know that sanctions and military threats are not going to be benefit them, but are going to be against their interests and against the interests of some European countries," Safavi told state television.

The United States and European powers have been leading international calls to rein in Iran's nuclear program, which the West says is a cover to produce atomic weapons -- a charge Iran denies. Washington says it wants a diplomatic solution to the dispute, but will keep a military option open.

"We regard the presence of America in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf as a threat, and we recommend they do not move toward threatening Iran," Safavi said.

He said the United States should make up for mistakes in Iraq "by getting out of Iraq and handing over the fate of the Iraqi people to the elected government". READ MORE

"Defending Iran's independence is the philosophy of Iran's forces," he added.

Safavi said in January that Iran would retaliate if it came under attack.

During the war games, Iran said it tested the land-to-sea Kowsar missile, which analysts say is designed to sink ships, a sonar-evading underwater missile, a home-grown torpedo and a radar-evading rocket.

Military analysts said Iran has not announced enough details to assess the real capabilities of the new weapons but that some claims may be exaggerated.

Iran, which has a commanding position on the north coast of the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, could still disrupt shipping if threatened, however, they said.

About two-fifths of the world's globally traded oil passes through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.