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Top Iranian Cleric Warns US Not to Designate Guards as Terrorists

A top Iranian cleric has warned the United States during a live radio broadcast not to blacklist Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

In Friday's sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said "fugitive counter-revolutionaries" were pushing the United States into a confrontation that would prove to be what he called a "quagmire" with no exit.

He said that if the United States labeled the Guards a terrorist organization, it would be a matter of pride.

The conservative cleric is a member of the Assembly of Experts, which selects Iran's supreme leader.

This week, U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told news agencies the Bush Administration may soon designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

Washington has accused Iran of arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the United States declares the Guards to be a terrorist group, it would cut off the group from the U.S. financial system and restrict the movement of its leaders. The United States has never taken such a step against the armed forces of a sovereign country.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had caused international controversy over his anti-Israeli remarks and his hard-line stance in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

In remarks this week, another senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Sharoudi, criticized President Ahmadinejad after he unexpectedly replaced Iran's oil and industry ministers. Sharoudi, who is Iran's judiciary chief, said changing managers and ministers would not improve anything. Mr. Ahmadinejad has been facing internal criticism for his management of the economy and high inflation.