Iran to use 'all means' to defend itself

Updated: 2007-09-19 23:12

TEHRAN - Iran said on Wednesday it would use "all our means" to defend itself if attacked by the West, three days after France's foreign minister publicly raised the possibility of war over Tehran's disputed nuclear activities.

When asked whether Iran would block the Hormuz Strait, the world's most important water way for oil shipments, if attacked, government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham dismissed it as "far-fetched" that anybody would take "this foolish option."

But, "we would use all our means to defend ourselves because territorial integrity is a key issue for every country," he told a news conference.

He did not elaborate. Iran has previously threatened to hit US regional interests if the United States launches a military strike against the Islamic Republic.

The world's fourth-largest crude producer, which rejects Western accusations it is seeking to develop nuclear bombs, has also said it will not rule out using oil as a weapon if attacked.

Analysts fear Iran could seek to impede traffic through the Strait of Hormuz in any retaliation by threatening merchant shipping. US naval chiefs are concerned that Iran could resort to mining the strait and the wider Gulf in a major conflict.

The strategic sea channel which shares Iran's coastline at the entrance to the Gulf is a choke point because of the huge volume of oil exported through it daily.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday comments by French government officials talking about the possibility of war over Iran's nuclear programme were intended for the media and should not be taken seriously.

Western nations fear Iran is seeking to build atomic bombs despite Tehran's denials. The United States insists it wants diplomacy to end the row but has not ruled out military action should such a route fail.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Monday everything must be done to avoid war with Iran, a day after Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Paris should prepare for that possibility though he did not think any war was imminent.

Kouchner's comments prompted major powers including the United States to say they believed the nuclear standoff could be resolved diplomatically.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin said on Wednesday France had no plan to attack Iran.

"No one can think for one instant that we are imagining and preparing plans against Iran," he told Canal Plus television.

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