Iran's leader says army ready to deter any attack
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's supreme leader said Friday that his country's military is ready to deter any attack and warned enemies of the Islamic Republic to abandon any "thoughts of invasion."
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks came as tensions are rising in the region over a possible strike by Israel against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges, saying its program is peaceful and geared toward generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
"The readiness of the Iranian armed forces is such ... it will deter the enemy from harboring any thoughts of invasion," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying during a visit to a military base in the country's northeast.
Israel has not ruled out a military option against Iran's suspect program and has recently said that time is running out before Iran obtains a nuclear weapon. Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be a threat to its existence, citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, calls for Israel's destruction, development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for hostile Arab militant groups.
Washington and others favor a mix of sanctions and diplomacy to try to force Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in the country, said Iran "is not seeking to invade anyone but will not succumb to any attack or act of aggression."
As Khamenei visited the base Friday, his host Gen. Mohmmad Ali Jafari of the powerful Revolutionary Guard said the troops' naval and missile power has now been raised to a "strategic deterrence level."
Iran has long sought a self-sufficient military program and top officials frequently make announcements about the country's strides in military technology.
Tehran has recently said it has upgraded the accuracy of its missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), which covers much of the Middle East, including Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.
However, it is virtually impossible to independently determine the actual capabilities or combat worthiness of Iran's arsenal.
Separately, the foreign ministry said a recent U.N. report that condemned Tehran of "deeply troubling" human rights violations was politically motivated and influenced by western adversaries including the United States.
The report, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, said many of the government's violations were "systemic in nature." It also called for an extensive, impartial, and independent investigation into the violence in the months that followed the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.