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Iran Rejects Israeli, French Warnings --> Israeli troops in action near the Gaza Strip (file photo) (epa) 22 January 2006 -- Iran says Israel would be making a "fatal mistake" if it resorts to military action against Tehran's nuclear program, and has accused France of interfering in its internal affairs.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi dismissed a warning issued to Iran by Israel's defense minister as a "childish game."

The warning was one of strongest yet issued by Israel.

Speaking at a policy conference in the Israeli town of Herzliya, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who was born in Iran, said that "I wish to use this occasion and turn to Iran's President [Mahmud] Ahmadinejad. I turn to you, a native of my hometown, who are leading your country in an ideology of hatred, terror and anti-Semitism. It would be better for you to take a glance at history and see what became of tyrants like you who tried to annihilate the Jewish people. Their end was that they brought destruction upon their own people."

Mofaz was born in Tehran; Ahmadinejad, who has served as mayor of Tehran, was born in Garmsar, near Tehran.

Mofaz stopped short of an outright threat of military action against Iran. But he said Israel would not accept a nuclear Iran under any circumstances and is preparing for the possible failure of diplomatic efforts.

"I am quite familiar with the Iranian people and I know that a large portion of them do not support its leader's views," Mofaz said. "I would like to turn to [the Iranian people] from here and to tell them that Ahmadinejad -- his hallucinatory statements and his criminal actions and his extreme views -- will bring disaster upon you. Do what you understand needs to be done in order to prevent this."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi described Mofaz's comments as a form of psychological warfare, adding that Israel is merely trying to add to Western pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Pressure From West Dismissed

Assefi also denounced a forthcoming emergency meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as "political."

The meeting, to be held on 2 February, was called by Britain, France, and Germany.

Assefi added that Tehran is not worried that the crisis over its disputed atomic program might end up at the Security Council.

Also on 22 January, the speaker of Iran's parliament -- Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel -- rejected an inferred threat made by French President Jacques Chirac, who on 19 January said that France is prepared to use nuclear weapons against any country that uses "terrorist means" against France.

"It is shameful for the people of France that their president brandishes atomic weapons on the pretext of fighting terrorism," Hadad-Adel said.

Hadad-Adel accused Chirac of trying to manipulate Iranian policies.

Chirac did not name any countries in his comments.

Among over developments, Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, says it is cutting ties with customers in Iran. It insisted, however, that its decision is not political, saying that it began to sever ties with its Iranian customers last year because of the high costs of complying with laws and uncertainty relating to regulatory and security matters.

UBS's move comes amid confusion about Iran's plans for the foreign currency reserves it holds in European banks.

Reports indicate that Iran may be trying to repatriate assets ahead of possible international sanctions over its nuclear program.

The governor of Iran's central bank, Ebrahim Sheibani, has said it would be advantageous to Iran to begin to pull out its foreign reserves from European banks.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi denied claims that Iran is already withdrawing money from its foreign accounts.

(AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Iran's Nuclear Program

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.