Sat, Feb 05, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Iran assails Bush over terror claim

DIRECT DIPLOMACY International reaction to Bush's address to the US Congress was mixed, with top 'terror sponsor' Iran leading the counterattack


Iran's supreme leader on Thursday harshly condemned US President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, saying his administration would fail in its attempt to uproot the ruling Islamic establishment.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was responding to Bush's annual speech to the US Congress on Wednesday, in which he accused Iran of being "the world's primary state sponsor of terror."

Syria, also named in Bush's speech as a supporter of terrorism, said the democracy the US seeks for the Middle East cannot come through force, but welcomed Bush's call for an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel.

South Korea, meanwhile, welcomed Bush's softened tone toward North Korea, hoping it would help the communist country return to talks aimed at ending its nuclear-weapons programs.

In Iran, Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran and is also the commander in chief of the armed forces, blasted Bush's words against Tehran.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, because of supporting the oppressed and confronting oppressors, is being attacked by the global tyrants," state-run television quoted Khamenei as saying, using the term he regularly uses to refer to the US. "They [the Americans] are trying, in a real but nonmilitary confrontation, through every possible means, to deny the talented Iranian nation of progress and deprive it of existence."

Khamenei said that each US president since 1979 had sought to overthrow Iran's ruling establishment -- and failed.

"This president will also fail," Khamenei was quoted as saying.

In his address, Bush said Washington was working with European allies to convince Iran to end its nuclear programs and stop supporting terror.

Addressing the Iranian people, he said: "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

The EU welcomed Bush's comments on cooperative diplomatic efforts concerning Iran's nuclear program.

"To cooperate with the Americans is very important and very helpful," said Luxembourgian Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who holds the EU presidency. "Together, the Europeans and the Americans can put real pressure on Iran to find a solution."

Bush also repeated accusations that Syria allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by "terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace" in the region.

"We expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom," he said.

Syrian Information Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah rejected Bush's accusations in an interview with the al-Jazeera television station.

"Everyone knows that Syria is [cooperating] in fighting terrorism, but the definition of terrorism cannot be selective and based on ideology and politics," he said.

Syria has cooperated with the West on al-Qaeda, but has rejected US calls to crack down on Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas who operate in southern Lebanon. Washington labels the Palestinian and Lebanese groups as terrorist.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Damascus, defended Syria against Bush's accusations, noting that the resistance efforts are planned and executed by the group's military wing in the Palestinian territories, not the political wing in Damascus.

Bush did win some praise for calling in his State of the Union address for an independent Palestinian state. Dakhlallah described that part of the speech as a "positive development."

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