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Iranian President Calls for Global Fight Against Terrorism

Iranian President Mohamed Khatami has called for a global fight against terrorism. And in another step toward forging links with the West, Iran is preparing for a visit Monday by Britain's foreign minister, the highest-ranking British official to travel to Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Iran marked the 21st anniversary of the start of its war with Iraq with a display of military strength and calls for peace. Addressing the nation during a military parade, President Mohamed Khatami used the occasion to call terrorism an ugly and horrifying phenomenon and said it was undeniably necessary to root it out.

He added that combating terrorism required a global effort and pointed to the need for all countries to provide a decent life to their citizens, an apparently reference to the Palestinian territories and Palestinian refugees.

Iran has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in the United States, but says it also opposes any possible U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan. It has vowed not to allow U.S. planes to use its airspace. Iran sealed its border with Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks.

It is believed that Afghanistan is sheltering Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, who is considered by U.S. officials as the top suspect in the New York and Washington attacks.

Analysts expect that Iran will maintain a neutral stance in any conflict involving Afghanistan, although Shia' Muslim Iran has been openly hostile to Afghanistan's ruling Sunni Taleban government, which it regards as primitive and extremist.

Iran's foreign ministry is preparing for the highest level visit by a British official since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will travel to Tehran on Monday.

The visit was arranged in a telephone conversation between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Khatami earlier this week. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said that conversation stressed Iran's opposition to any moves that would endanger lives in Afghanistan.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Mr. Straw would carry a message from Washington to Tehran expressing U.S. interest in working with Iran to combat terrorism. Mr. Powell said the United States is anxious to explore opportunities for cooperation in fighting all forms of terrorism.