April 5, 2006

Iran says military threats not in U.S. interests

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards commander
said on Wednesday the United States should accept Iran's
position as a regional power, adding that sanctions or military
threats would not be in U.S. or European interests.

Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander-in-chief of the Guards, was
speaking to state television during a week of naval war games
in which Iranian forces have announced the successful testing
of new weapons, including missiles and torpedoes.

Iran says the war games in the Gulf, which began on Friday,
are a show of defensive strength, but analysts say the timing
during a nuclear standoff with the West offers a reminder that
Iran could threaten a vital world oil shipping route.

"The Americans should accept Iran as a great regional power
and they should know that sanctions and military threats are
not going to benefit them, but are going to be against their
interests and against the interests of some European
countries," Safavi told state television.

The United States and European powers have been leading
international calls to rein in Iran's nuclear programme, which
the West says is a cover to produce atomic weapons -- a charge
Iran denies. Washington says it wants a diplomatic solution to
the dispute, but will keep a military option open.

As part of the war games, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Rear
Admiral Ali Fadavi said Iranian forces had test fired a cruise
missile, with a range of 200 km (125 miles), from a helicopter
on Wednesday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Previously this missile used to be fired from sea and from
warships, after a lot of tests and research, now it has been
installed on helicopters," Fadavi said.

Safavi said: "We regard the presence of America in Iraq,
Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf as a threat, and we recommend
they do not move toward threatening Iran."

"Defending Iran's independence is the philosophy of Iran's
forces," he added.

Safavi said in January that Iran would retaliate if it came
under attack.

Earlier in the war games, Iran said it tested the
land-to-sea Kowsar missile, which analysts say is designed to
sink ships, a sonar-evading underwater missile, a home-grown
torpedo and a radar-evading rocket.

Military analysts said Iran has not announced enough
details to assess the real capabilities of the new weapons but
that some claims may be exaggerated.

Iran, which has a commanding position on the north coast of
the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, could
still disrupt shipping if threatened, however, they said.

About two-fifths of the world's globally traded oil passes
through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.