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Iranian Cleric Cautions Israel, U.S. Against Strikes

August 15, 2006 - A top hard-line Iranian cleric has warned that Tehran would retaliate with ballistic-missile strikes if attacked by the United States and Israel.

In comments broadcast today on state television, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (no relation to former President Mohammad Khatami) said Iran has the capacity to hit Tel Aviv with its medium-range missiles.

Khatami has a seat in the 86-member Assembly of Experts, the cleric-dominated body that supervises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He said both Israel and the U.S. should know that "playing with Islam is like stepping on the lion's tail."

"If [the leaders of the United States and Israel] want to have the smallest thought of any kind of offense against Islamic Iran, they should know that the 70-kilometer range missiles of Lebanon's Hizballah turned Israel into a country of ghosts," Khatami said. "They should be frightened of the day when our missiles with a 2,000-kilometer range will come down in the heart of Tel Aviv."

Western arms experts believe Iran's Shahab-3 missile has a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers, enough to strike Tel Aviv or U.S. military bases in the Gulf.

Iranian military commanders have in the past threatened to deploy their Shabab-3 missiles against any aggressor.

(Reuters, AFP)