Ahmadinejad: We'll sever enemies' hands

Iran's leader threatens action before attackers "touch the trigger," but welcomes US office in Teheran.

Ahmadinejad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened on Sunday to "cut off the hands" of any would-be attackers of the Islamic Republic. "Before the enemies touch the trigger, the armed forces will cut off their hands," the state-run IRNA news agency quoted the leader as saying. Ahmadinejad said that missile tests conducted last week exhibited "only a small part" of Iran's defense capabilities, and that, if necessary, further capabilities would be revealed. Ahmadinejad's statement comes amid a report that US President George W. Bush has given Israel the "amber light" to carry out an attack on Iran if diplomatic efforts are unsuccessful in causing the Islamic Republic to back down and relinquish its nuclear program. According to a senior Pentagon official quoted by the British Sunday Times on Sunday morning, Bush has given Israel free rein to attack Iran's nuclear sites if sanctions fail in spite of opposition from US generals and regardless of the possible economic and political repercussions of such a strike. "Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you're ready," the official said, adding however, that Israel had been told that it could not count on the US to lend it military support. Contradicting recent reports to the contrary, he also said that the IAF would not be permitted to take off from American military bases in Iraq. The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report. Ahmadinejad's aggressive statements contrasted strikingly with a report on Iranian state TV Sunday, which quoted him as saying that Iran would welcome the idea of setting up a US diplomatic office in Teheran. The report quoted the firebrand Iranian leader as saying he would consider an American request to set up an interests section in Iran. He said he "welcomes any move to expand ties." But Ahmadinejad said his government hasn't received any official request for such an office. Last month, US officials floated the idea but no formal requests were made. Iran has operated an interests section in Washington for years. But the US hasn't had any diplomatic presence in Teheran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and hostage-taking at the US Embassy there. Meanwhile, according to a recent AFP report, Ahmadinejad is claiming that he met with two US military commanders during his March trip to Iraq and further claims that the officers even took photographs of Ahmadinejad to mark the meeting. Iran harshly condemned remarks by Senator John McCain on Sunday, after he jokingly commented last week that cigarette exports to Iran could be "a way of killing them." The presumptive Republican presidential candidate made the statements after he was asked about reports that US exports to Iran - a big part of which were cigarettes - had risen tenfold during US President George W. Bush's presidency. He immediately added: "I meant that as a joke." But Iranian officials were apparently unamused. "McCain's crude remark on the indiscriminate killing of the Iranian nation not only testifies to his disturbed state of mind, but also to his warmongering approach to foreign policy," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said in a statement Saturday. "We condemn such jokes and believe them to be inappropriate for a US presidential candidate. It is most evident that jokes about genocide will not be tolerated by Iranians or Americans," he added.