TEHRAN - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei warned on Wednesday Iran would hit back if attacked over its nuclear
program, which the United States believes is aimed at making atom bombs.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, delivers a speech in a public gathering at the city of Mashhad,
540 miles (900 kilometers) northeast of the capital Tehran, Iran,
Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday that
Tehran will pursue nuclear activities outside international regulations if
the U.N. Security Council insists it stop Uranium enrichment.
Khamenei, who has previously threatened U.S. regional interests if attacked,
was addressing a big crowd of pilgrims at Iran's holiest shrine in the
northeastern city of Mashhad to mark the Iranian new year, which falls on March
"If they want to threaten us and use force and violence against us, they
should not doubt that Iranian officials will use all they have in their power to
deal a blow to those who assault them," he said in the speech aired on
The U.N. Security Council is this week considering new sanctions against Iran
over its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program, whose product can be
used to make fuel for power generation or, when more highly enriched, nuclear
But Khamenei's speech, and a defiant New Year address by President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad earlier on Wednesday, showed no intention by Iran of bowing to
The world's fourth-largest oil exporter insists the program is peaceful and
aimed only at generating electricity.
Khamenei said Iran's nuclear work followed international rules, but if major
powers via the Security Council took "illegal actions" and ignored Iran's
rights, "we can also carry out illegal actions and we will do that."
Washington has said it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the stand-off,
but has not ruled out military options, though Britain's Foreign Secretary
Margaret Beckett said world powers were not preparing for a strike against
"No one is preparing for military action," she told reporters in the United
Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi after talks with officials of the Gulf Arab
"The purpose of sanctions, the purpose of pushing further pressure on Iran is
to get them to negotiations," Beckett said. "We all very much hope that they
The UAE and fellow U.S.-allied Gulf Arab neighbors of Iran have expressed
concern over its nuclear program and raised fears of a regional nuclear race
they announced plans to acquire nuclear energy capability in December.
Khamenei said Iran is ready to sign a joint defense treaty with Gulf
countries, state television said, without elaborating.
In his address earlier on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad accused some big powers of
waging psychological warfare against Iran.
"By psychological warfare, propaganda and misuse of the organizations they
have themselves created ... they are trying to prevent our nation's
development," Ahmadinejad said.
He has previously accused the United States and Britain of using the Security
Council as a tool against Iran.
The proposed U.N. resolution would embargo Iranian arms exports and freeze
financial assets abroad of 28 individuals, groups and companies.
It is a follow-up to a previous resolution adopted by the Council in December
and was expected to be voted on this week after Germany and permanent council
members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States agreed on the text.
But South Africa, the council's current chair, has called for all the main
proposed sanctions to be dropped. The council could probably adopt the measure
without South African backing, but the major powers had wanted it passed
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said amendments proposed by South
Africa and Indonesia deserved "attentive consideration."
He also said Russia, which has commercial and political ties to Tehran, would
not back "excessive sanctions" against Iran.
Russian officials say they share Western concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran
but argue a policy of constructive engagement can prevent this more effectively
than one that corners Tehran.
Earlier this week Russia denied a newspaper report that it had threatened to
halt work on building Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station unless Tehran stopped
At U.N. headquarters in New York, negotiators said Qatar had also submitted
amendments to the draft, but that they and those proposed by Indonesia were
general and could be accommodated.
"More challenging for the permanent five is the South African amendments,
much more challenging," China's deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin told
He said negotiators were aiming at a vote this week "but it seems that this
week is not possible."