TEHRAN, (Reuters) – A senior Iranian army commander warned the United States and other Western powers not to make any “stupid move” over Tehran’s nuclear programme and said they would be surprised by the military response to any such action.
The comments by the commander-in-chief of the regular army, reported by newspapers on Saturday, were the latest in a series of defiant statements by Iran’s leadership as the United Nations prepares to vote on new sanctions against the country.
Iran is embroiled in an escalating international dispute over its uranium enrichment, which Iran says is solely for fuel for power generation but the West suspects is a cover for making nuclear weapons.
The United States says it would prefer a negotiated solution to the crisis, but has not ruled out military options if diplomacy fails.
Armed forces chief Ataollah Salehi said Iran’s military was much stronger today than when Iran fought an eight-year war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1980-88. “Today the defensive capabilities of Iran are not to be compared with those of the time of the holy war and if our bullying enemies make a stupid move, they will certainly be surprised,” the daily Siyasat-e Rouz quoted Salehi as saying on Friday.
A draft resolution agreed by the U.N. Security Council’s five members with veto power — the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia — and Germany was sent to the 15-nation council on Thursday for a vote expected next week.
The draft seeks new sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, whose product can be used to generate power or, more highly enriched, to make nuclear bombs.
Iranian leaders have reiterated in recent days they will not bow to pressure and abandon their nuclear programme, while saying they too would prefer a negotiated solution.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said on Wednesday his country would respond militarily if attacked.