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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iranian FM doubts U.S. would dare invade his country

RIA Novosti

29/03/2007 11:31 ABU DHABI, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - The United States is unprepared for a possible military campaign against Iran, the Middle East country's foreign minister said Thursday.

A massive U.S. military buildup near Iran's borders has been reported this week following Iran's detention of 15 British sailors in the Persian Gulf last Friday.

Russian intelligence said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

"We doubt that anyone would dare attack Iran, and we do not think America can bring about a new crisis, particularly given that it is surviving its own interior crisis," Manouchehr Mottaki told Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh, apparently referring to the Republicans' losing ground in the U.S. Congress to the Democrats, who have endorsed a timetable for U.S. troops withdrawal from Iraq.

Tehran and Washington have been embroiled in a political standoff since Iran resumed nuclear enrichment in January 2006.

The U.S. and some other Western countries suspect Iran is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program, although Tehran has consistently claimed it needs nuclear energy for peaceful power generation.

The minister reiterated the legitimacy of Iran's ambitions to develop civilian nuclear research warranted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the Islamic republic is signatory to.

Mottaki said Iran has the right to develop peaceful nuclear energy, although "the country that used nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki" wants to strip Tehran of the right.

Commenting on the seizure of the 15 British sailors, the minister said the United Kingdom should admit its mistake as the first step to their release. Mottaki said the Iranian military would soon make public all data on the incident, which he said had been recorded by satellites.

On March 23, the U.K. Defense Ministry announced that Iran had detained 15 Navy sailors and marines from the HMS Cornwall in Iraqi territorial waters, which in accordance with a UN Security Council mandate under Resolution 1723 was inspecting ships in the Persian Gulf.

Following Britain's claims, the Iranian Embassy in London issued a statement in which it said the sailors and marines had been 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) inside Iranian waters at the time.

Iran's Foreign Ministry accused the Royal Navy of illegally entering Iranian territorial waters.

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