TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused U.S. President George W. Bush of trying to whip up hate against Tehran when he said last week the country had put the region “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust”.
The West suspects Iran has a secret programme to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its atomic programme is only for power generation to help boost economic growth and has rejected U.N. demands to halt its most sensitive work.
Iran’s IRNA state news agency quoted Khamenei as saying Bush had made comments that were “hateful, arrogant and violent”.
“The Iranian nation has resisted and it will resist ... It will never bow to any coercion in the nuclear issue and in other matters,” said Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s top authority.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran since December and the United States has said it will push for a third unless Tehran stops enriching uranium.
Enrichment is the part of Iran’s programme that most worries the West because it can be used to make fuel for nuclear power plants or material for warheads.
The United States has said it wants the standoff to be ended through diplomacy but has not ruled out military action if that fails. U.S. officials have said they might label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist group.
“The enemies have turned up the level of threats but they should know that an organisation like the Revolutionary Guards that enjoys popular support cannot be destroyed,” said newly appointed Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari.
Iran has dismissed U.S. threats, saying U.S. power in the Middle East is waning, and has called for Washington to pull its troops out of Iraq and the region.
“We recommend they ... leave the region as soon as possible and keep their relations with Islam and regional states at a distance,” Jafari was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency in his first public remarks since his appointment.
Khamenei said he had appointed Jafari on Saturday to head the Guards, an ideologically motivated force that sees itself as the guardian of the Islamic Republic. The Guards have a separate command structure to the regular military.
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