Tehran Warns US Attack Would
Be An 'Irreparable Mistake'


(AFP) - Iran warned the United States that any attack against it would be an "irreparable mistake" and denied US claims it was harbouring al-Qaeda members.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi also dismissed President George W. Bush's charge last week that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction.
"I only hope the Americans will not make such a huge, irreparable mistake," Asefi told reporters Monday after being asked about the possibility of a US attack on the Islamic republic.
"It would be better if American leaders expressed themselves on the basis of real facts and not their imagination, and if they furnished some proof," he said.
"The recent US accusations against Iran are inspired and dictated by the Zionist regime, which shows yet again that the Americans are not sincere when they say they want rapprochement with Iran."
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday he had no doubt that Tehran helped members of the al-Qaeda network and its allies, Afghanistan's former ruling Taliban, escape into Iran from neighbouring Afghanistan.
"We deny all reports about the presence of al-Qaeda members in Iran," Asefi said. "As far as we are concerned, our borders are closed and we are blocking all illegal entry."
Asefi's remarks come amid a war of words between the two foes, which have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, several months after Islamic radicals seized the US embassy in Tehran.
The verbal sparring was set off by Bush's claim, in his State of the Union address last Tuesday, that Iran, Iraq and North Korea constitute an "axis of evil" in the world.
Government spokesman Abdullah Ramazan-Zadeh was also quoted by radio as describing Bush's remarks as "fundamentalist and contrary to the ideals of civilisation," and comparing the US president to a "Roman gladiator."
Asked about alleged Iranian weapons of mass destruction, Asefi said, "If you are talking about the Bushehr nuclear plant, it is supervised, monitored and visited by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran is a signatory of all international conventions in this regard."
Asefi also said Iran was opposed to threatened US strikes against its neighbour Iraq, with which its relations are still poor after their bitter 1980-88 war. Tehran opposed all attacks against an Islamic state, he added.
Asefi welcomed however the stance of the European Union and Russia, which had distanced themselves from the US sabre-rattling. "The world in general has not welcomed these American accusations against Iran," he said.
Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved.

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