10 October AFP

Iran concerned about long-term US presence in region


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Iran is concerned over a possible long-term presence of US military forces in the region, the secretary general of the country's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) said on state radio.

"A long-time aim of the Americans has been to dominate the oil wells in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, and with the attacks against Afghanistan, it has found the excuse to gain a presence in the Caspian Sea," Hassan Rowhani said.

Referring to Washington agreement to refrain from violating Iranian air and territorial space in military strikes against Afghanistan, he warned: "America is completely aware of Iran's forces and powers and abilities to react. It is unlikely that they would carry out any decisions" against that agreement.

Earlier Wednesday, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani accused Washington of aiming to "besiege" Iran and warned that this would only "further weaken" security in the United States and Europe. "If the Americans think they can intensify the pressure on us, Lebanon and the Palestinians by penetrating Central Asia, the Caucasus and by completing the (process of) besieging Iran, they should know that the crisis will expand in the long run," Rafsanjani was quoted by state radio as saying.

On Monday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington of "lying" about its true intentions in attacking Afghanistan for sheltering Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on the United States. Iran, although hostile to the United States, condemned the September attacks but has refused to join or assist the US-led military actions against Afghanistan that began on Sunday.

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