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Iran urges alliance against U.S. plots
(Agencies)
Updated: 2005-02-18 08:47

Iran warned that any strike on its nuclear facilities would draw a swift and crushing response and called Thursday for an expansion of its newly emerging strategic alliance with Syria to create a powerful united Islamic front that could confront Washington and Israel.

Such an expansion appears unlikely to go far, because many key Arab states Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia are close Washington allies and have long been suspicious of Iran's Shiite Muslim clerical regime.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, right, and Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji al-Otari, talk during an official meeting at Saad Abad palace in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. Iran and Syria, who both are facing pressure from the United States, said Wednesday they will form a united front to confront possible threats against them, state-run television reported. [AP]
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, right, and Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji al-Otari, talk during an official meeting at Saad Abad palace in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. Iran and Syria, who both are facing pressure from the United States, said Wednesday they will form a united front to confront possible threats against them, state-run television reported. [AP]
Still, the statements were another sign of the tense situation, coming a day after Syria and Iran declared they would form a united front against any threats, and a mysterious explosion near a nuclear facility in southwestern Iran that initially was reported as a missile strike but later was attributed to construction work on a dam.

Iran's overtures to other Muslim countries in the Mideast reflect its concern about U.S. pressure to drop all its nuclear ambitions. With Syria under similarly strong American scrutiny in its case for its role in Lebanon and as an alleged sponsor of terrorism the two nations are trying to diminish Washington's efforts to isolate them.

The Bush administration has so far applied only diplomatic pressure, but has talked tough. US President Bush has labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Feb. 4 that a military strike against Iran was "not on the agenda at this point," but Bush has said he would not rule out any option.

Bush said Thursday the United States would support Israel "if her security is threatened."

Israel has warned that it may consider a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear installations along the lines of its 1981 bombing of an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The United States accuses Iran of having a secret program to make nuclear weapons; Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes.

Fears the United States or Israel will attack Iran or Syria abound in the region, and Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted Thursday by state-run radio as saying retaliation would be harsh.

"When the Iranian nation sees our crushing response to the enemy, it should know one of our nuclear or non-nuclear facilities has been attacked," he said.

Iran's powerful former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari, said it was important to strengthen relations among Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other Islamic states in the region, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Rafsanjani said the United States and Israel were trying to create divisions among regional countries, which he said must "stay completely vigilant vis-a-vis the U.S. and Israeli plots." Rafsanjani is widely expected to run in June presidential elections.



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