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Iran says it has military might to deter attack
Iran has the military might to deter attacks against it, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said, after US President Bush said he would not rule out military force against Iran over its nuclear program.
"We are able to say that we have strength such that no country can attack us because they do not have precise information about our military capabilities due to our ability to implement flexible strategies," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Shamkhani as saying Tuesday.
In October, Iran announced successful trials of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile with a range of 1,250 miles, putting parts of Europe, as well as Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf, within reach.
Bush said Monday Washington would not rule out military action against Iran -- which he has labeled as part of an "axis of evil" alongside Iraq and North Korea -- if it was not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons program.
Washington accuses Tehran of trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is aimed solely at producing electricity.
The United States has toppled regimes in Iran's neighbors Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
"Iran has no fear of foreign enemies' threats ... as they are very well aware that the Islamic Republic is not a place for adventurism," the ISNA student news agency quoted influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as saying.
Bush's comments followed an article in the New Yorker magazine Sunday which said U.S. commando units were conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify hidden nuclear and chemical sites for possible strikes.
Pentagon officials have said the New Yorker report was "riddled with errors."
EU ADVOCATES DIPLOMACY
The European Union insisted Tuesday diplomacy was the right approach with Iran.
"We are seeking a diplomatic solution. I think that is the right way to go," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters in the northern German city of Kiel.
Britain, Germany and France have sought to persuade Tehran to give up technology that could be used to make nuclear warheads in return for incentives such as trade deals and help with a civilian nuclear program.
European Commission external affairs spokeswoman Emma Udwin said: "We are working with our Iranian partners in good faith as I trust they are working with us in good faith. We will pursue that path as long as it's possible and fruitful to do so."
Russia defended Iran, its key nuclear energy market in the Middle East, where it has been building a nuclear reactor since the early 1990s in a $1-billion project.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying: "I have no grounds to believe that the situation will get out of control and that the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program will be changed.
"Russia and Iran have a specific dialogue going on to make sure Iran's nuclear program stays entirely peaceful."
Iran's Mehr news agency, which analysts say has close ties to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ridiculed U.S. attempts to destabilize Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"The United States is well aware that Iran has strongly withstood U.S. pressure for over 25 years ... Today, the Islamic Republic has acquired massive military might, the dimensions of which still remain unknown, and is prepared to attack any intruder with a fearsome rain of fire and death," it said.