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Iran's Khamenei Denounces American 'Threats' - 2003-06-04

Iran's supreme leader on Wednesday denounced what he called threats by the United States and declared that it would be suicide for any country to attack the Islamic republic.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced his warning to tens of thousands of people gathered to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of Iran's Islamic Republic.

Speaking on the outskirts of Tehran at the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader declared that U.S. threats are not new. Any military attack against Iran, he warned, would be suicide for the aggressor.

Ayatollah Khamenei told the crowd that Iran's leaders have no intention to lead the country to war. But he said Iran's leaders and its people will defend the country from any aggression with power and determination.

Ayatollah Khamenei's remarks drew deafening chants from the crowd. They shouted: We sacrifice our blood for our leader and Death to America, death to Israel.

The rhetoric between the United States and Iran has been escalating in recent weeks. American officials accuse Iran of interfering in post-war Iraq, harboring al-Qaida fugitives and pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program.

And the U.S. statements on Iran seem to be getting support from other nations. At the G-8 summit that ended in France Tuesday, the leaders of the world's major industrialized nations called for inspections of Iran's facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. By the middle of this month, the agency is expected to issue a decision regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Though Iran insists that its uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz is entirely peaceful, the United States charges that Iran is actively working to develop a nuclear weapons capability. The United States wants the energy agency to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Ayatollah Khamenei also issued a stiff warning to any Iranian officials who call for compromise with the United States. He said if any official goes against the interests of Iran and its people, they will be rejected without pity. He said all Iranian leaders will unite to defend the country's independence.