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Iran scoffs at threats of US attack

TEHRAN, July 12 – Iran on Saturday dismissed speculation that it risked being attacked by the United States over its contested nuclear drive, saying that a military strike would be "craziness."

"Any aggression or military action against Iran is an idiocy whose repercussions would hurt all," Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.

"I don’t think that such craziness and nonsense will prevail or is doable militarily," he added.

Tensions over the nuclear standoff have surged again in the past days after Iran test-fired a broadside of missiles — including one it says brings Israel within range — in war games that provoked international concern.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned that if the United States or its regional ally Israel attacked Iran "then our response to them will be harsh and devastating."

"Of course, the Zionist regime and the United States do not have the capability to involve themselves in another crisis," he said in a speech on Friday reported by the official IRNA news agency on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Tehran said it test-fired its Shahab-3 missile — the longest-range weapon in its arsenal — and eight other missiles, adding it fired more missiles on Thursday in land manouevres at night and naval war games by day.

Mottaki described the missile firing as a show of "Iran’s capabilities and ability in the military field."

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Meanwhile diplomatic efforts aimed at solving the five-year nuclear standoff have also continued.

World powers last month presented Iran with a package aimed at ending the nuclear crisis by offering Tehran technological incentives in exchange for suspending its sensitive uranium enrichment programme.

Iran has proposed its own package — a more all embracing attempt to solve the problems of the world including the nuclear standoff — and has made much of the common ground between the two proposals.

Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is to meet EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana — who leads the talks on behalf of world powers — in Geneva on July 19 in their latest effort to break the deadlock, Iranian officials said.

Elham again insisted that Iran would not give up enriching uranium, saying "no issue depriving our people of their rights can be debated. We will never accept any preconditions for negotiations."

Western powers fear Tehran could use the process to make a nuclear weapon but Iran rejects the accusations insisting its nuclear programme is aimed solely at generating energy for a growing population.

Indeed, Elham said it was the world powers who had changed their position and implied he believed they had dropped their demand for a suspension.

"They themselves have retreated from their positions and became aware that such a request (for suspension) is an illogical one. Thus they have taken a rational move," he said.

"The US position is showing that they are taking a logical path," he added, without giving further details.

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However the offer handed to Iran by Solana last month makes it clear that Iran must suspend enrichment for full negotiations on the incentives package to begin.

Iran has already responded to the offer in a document that has yet to be published but has been described by Solana as a "complicated and difficult letter that must be thoroughly analysed".

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