TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will hit Tel Aviv, U.S. shipping in the Gulf and American interests around the world if it is attacked over its disputed nuclear activities, an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
“The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe,” the students news agency ISNA quoted Ali Shirazi as saying in a speech to Revolutionary Guards.
The United States and its allies suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs. Tehran says its program is peaceful.
Leaders of the Group of Eight rich countries expressed serious concern at the proliferation risks posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
In a statement issued after G8 leaders met in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the grouping urged Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.
“We also urge Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA,” the G8 said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier that major world powers had decided to send European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Iran for talks on an incentives package they offered last month to induce Tehran to change its nuclear policy.
Sarkozy did not say when Solana would travel to Tehran. Iran formally replied on Friday to the offer by the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany.
France said Iran’s response had ignored the world powers’ demand for a suspension of uranium enrichment before talks on implementing the package — a condition rejected on Monday as “illegitimate” by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In Prague, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were ways that Iran might wish to talk with Solana or others in order to get that suspension to take place.
“I did speak with Javier Solana yesterday. He is in contact with his Iranian counterpart and it’s our great hope that the Iranians will avail themselves of this opportunity to get on the right side of the international community.”
Shirazi’s comments intensified a war of words that has raised fears of military confrontation and helped boost world oil prices to record highs in recent weeks.
“The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran’s first targets and they will be burned,” Shirazi was quoted as saying.
Shirazi, a mid-level cleric, is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to comment on the threat to hit Tel Aviv, saying only: “Shirazi’s words speak for themselves.”
Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power, has vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. The United States says it wants to resolve the dispute by diplomacy but has not ruled out military action.
In April, Israel’s Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is a former army general and defense minister, told Israeli media: “An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation.”
Tel Aviv is an Israeli coastal metropolis hit in 1991 by Scud missiles launched by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during a U.S.-led war with Baghdad.
“I think it is very scary what they are saying,” said Roy Katalan, holding his infant daughter in his arms on a Tel Aviv beach. “I think we should take him (Shirazi) seriously.”
The latest Iranian threats had little impact on financial markets in Israel. “This has no relevance on dollar-shekel trade. I assume if we see a strike, there will be a reaction,” said Neil Corney, treasurer for Citigroup’s office in Tel Aviv.
Oil tumbled to below $136 on Tuesday, dropping by about $10 this week on a stronger dollar and eased concern over an Atlantic hurricane. Oil had hit a record $145.85 last week on tensions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and worries a brewing storm could hit oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico.
Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it comes under attack. About 40 percent of globally traded oil moves through the Gulf waterway.
In Washington, the U.S. Treasury designated four Iranian firms and four individuals on Tuesday for their ties to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, a move that bans U.S. companies from dealing with them and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
The Revolutionary Guards’ commander of artillery and missile units, Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, said 50 brigades of his forces had been equipped with what he called smart cluster munitions.
“All our arms, bullets and rockets are on alert” to defend Iranian territory, Hemayet daily quoted him as saying.
U.S. and British naval forces wrapped up military exercises in the Gulf and said they were unrelated to tensions with Iran. The Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet said “Exercise Stake Net” took place in the central and southern Gulf and was part of training aimed at protecting the region’s oil infrastructure.