Iran raises tension by threatening pre-emptive action

Deputy chief of Iranian armed forces says regime ‘will act without waiting for enemies’ actions’ if national interests are put at risk

Iran has stepped up its rhetoric with the west by warning that it could launch pre-emptive action if its enemies put the regime’s national interest at risk, raising the stakes over sensitive nuclear talks in Tehran.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted the deputy head of the Islamic republic’s armed forces, Mohammad Hejazi, as saying: “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions.”

Hejazi’s warning comes amid increasing fears of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Iran’s defence minister, Ahmad Vahidi, said his country intended to boost its presence in international waters, the regime’s English-language TV channel, Press TV, reported.

Last week, two Iranian naval ships sailed through the Suez canal in a move closely watched by the US and Israel.

In recent weeks, Iran has adopted a policy of retaliatory actions against western economic sanctions or threats of an Israeli pre-emptive strike, while expressing readiness for nuclear talks.

A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Tehran on Monday for negotiations with senior Iranian officials amid suspicion over the regime’s alleged nuclear experiments with military applications. Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes but many western governments believe it has military ambitions.

Last week Iran, while unveiling nuclear advances, sent a letter to the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, offering talks with the world’s major powers, including the US, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain, the group known as P5+1. The west welcomed the letter with caution.

On the eve of the IAEA visit, hopes were increased that negotiations could give a respite to the escalating rhetoric between Iran and Israel, but the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, cast doubt on this on Tuesday by saying the IAEA team had no plans to inspect the country’s nuclear facilities.

“The titles of the members of the visiting delegation is not inspectors. This is an expert delegation. The purpose of visit is not inspection,” said Mehmanparast. “The aim is to negotiate about co-operation between Iran and the agency and to set a framework for a continuation of the talks.”

Last week, Iran claimed to have built faster uranium enrichment centrifuges and had loaded domestically made fuel plates into a reactor in defiance of the west.

In recent years, Iran’s nuclear programme has experienced a series of dramatic setbacks: stuxnet, a computer worm believed to have been designed by opponents of the regime, caused damage to its nuclear programme, and four nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the past two years. Another scientist who was wounded in an assassination attempt was later promoted to become the country’s nuclear chief.

Tensions have escalated since a report by the IAEA in November led to an oil embargo against Iran by the US and its European allies. In response to western sanctions, which have recently begun to bite, Iran has resorted to sabre-rattling and threats of closing the Strait of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, Iran warned that it could cut off oil exports to six European countries in retaliation for the latest sanctions imposed on the regime. The announcement caused turmoil in the world’s crude market. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

from Saeed Kamali Dehghan


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