Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Friday that Iran will retaliate against Western-backed oil sanctions and threats of attack, as media reports say U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta fears Israel could strike Iran in the next few months.
A report Thursday in The Washington Post, later backed by other news outlets, said Panetta worries Israel could attack Iran as early as April to stop Tehran's progress on a possible nuclear bomb. Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.
Panetta was not directly quoted in the report and has not commented on it.
Khamenei's comments came in a speech on state television Friday as he marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Khamenei said sanctions will have no effect on Iran's determination to continue its controversial nuclear program. He also said Iran will back any nation or group that intends to confront Israel.
Israel is among the nations, including the United States, that suspect Iran may be enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons. Israel has not ruled out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, while the United States is pushing for increased international sanctions instead.
In retaliation for any further action, Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world's oil is shipped.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.