Saturday, August 19, 2006

Iran ready for Israel action after Lebanon war - army

A senior Iranian army commander said on Saturday the armed forces were prepared for any action by Israel after what Iran has called the Jewish state's defeat at the hands of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas.

Ataollah Salehi, commander-in-chief of Iran's army, made his comment on the first day of army wargames, which started in the south of the country but will later extend to other areas. He did not say how long the manoeuvres would last.

"The enemy has gone mad facing Hizbollah's strength and we should keep ourselves prepared given the history we have from our mad enemy," Salehi was quoted as saying by Iran's official IRNA news agency. READ MORE

Iranian officials have praised the truce in Lebanon as a victory for Iran's ally Hizbollah and a defeat for Israel.

Iran is embroiled in a nuclear standoff with the West.

It is due to reply by Aug. 22 to a demand by major powers that it relinquish uranium enrichment in return for trade and technical concessions. It denies accusations by western countries that it is seeking nuclear bombs.

Israel launched a strike on Iraqi nuclear facilities in 1981 and some analysts have speculated Israel could consider a strike on Iran. But they say this would be a tougher task, partly because Iran's facilities are widely dispersed.

"We have designed plans that will definitely surprise our enemies," Salehi said in comments on state television, adding that the wargames would be held across the country.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the ideologically driven wing of the armed forces which has a separate command structure to the regular military, held wargames in the Gulf in April in which they tested new missiles, torpedoes and other equipment.

Analysts interpreted those wargames as a thinly veiled threat that Iran could disrupt vital oil shipping lanes if pushed by an escalation in the nuclear dispute.

Officials said new home-made equipment would be tested during the army's manoeuvres, newspapers earlier reported, but no such tests were announced on Saturday.