Iran is ready to defend itself: commander

TEHRAN Fri Nov 23, 2007 8:33am EST

1 of 3. Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards force shout slogans in support of Iran's nuclear program while attending Friday prayers at a university in Tehran November 23, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran is ready to defend itself if the West decides to attack it over Tehran's nuclear program, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said on Friday.

Iran is in a row with the West over the Islamic state's disputed nuclear program. Western countries suspect Iran's nuclear program is a cover to build an atomic bomb but Tehran denies the charge, saying it only wants to generate electricity.

Washington has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the standoff.

"Today, our enemies should know ... that if the Supreme Leader gives orders to foil the enemies' plots, the Iranian nation is ready to do that in any way necessary," Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said in remarks broadcast on state radio.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran's most powerful figure and has the last say on all state matters, including the nuclear issue.

The Revolutionary Guards are an ideologically driven force that has a separate command structure to the regular Iranian military, answering directly to Khamenei.

Guards commanders have previously said their forces could disrupt the vital oil shipping lanes of the Gulf waterway if pushed but have also said U.S. forces are too bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan to open a new front.

Washington has added Iran's Revolutionary Guards along with more Iranian banks to a list of institutions under sanctions to isolate the country.

The United Nations Security Council has passed two sanctions resolutions against Tehran since December. Washington is now pushing for more U.N. measures but Russia and China have so far been reluctant.

(Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; editing by Elizabeth Piper)