Iran will respond to any military threat
Tehran - Iran "will respond with full force" to any attack - or even any threat of military action - the country's supreme leader said on Thursday, after Israel warned the world must act to prevent Tehran getting nuclear weapons.
Iran "will respond with full force to any aggression or even threats in a way that will demolish the aggressors from within", Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told students at a Tehran military college, according to his official website.
Khamenei said the message was directed at Iran's enemies, "especially America and its stooges and the Zionist regime [Israel]".
The supreme leader's forceful language followed threats last week from Israel that air strikes could be in the offing against Iran's nuclear sites. Israeli President Shimon Peres said last weekend that such action was becoming "more and more likely".
Rhetoric between Iran and its two principal foes, Israel and the United States, has risen since the release of a UN report on Tuesday, saying there was "credible" evidence suggesting Iran's atomic programme was being used to research putting nuclear warheads in ballistic missiles.
Iran, which has long denied any military thrust to its nuclear programme, responded to the report by saying it would not budge "an iota" from its atomic course and asserted it could confront any attack.
‘Israel will see its destruction’
The deputy chief of Iran's armed forces, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, warned Israel "will see its destruction" if it attacks, singling out the Israeli nuclear site of Dimona as "the most accessible" target.
He also stated that, in that scenario, "our response would not be limited to the Middle East".
"Iran is not a nation to sit still and just observe threats from fragile materialist powers which are being eaten by worms from inside," Khamenei was quoted as telling the military cadets on Thursday.
"Anyone who harbours any thought of invading the Islamic Republic of Iran - or even if the thought crosses their mind - should be prepared to receive strong blows and the steel fists of the military, the [Revolutionary] Guards, and the Basij [militia], or in other words the Iranian nation," he said.
Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani reinforced the message by telling Western powers, according to the website of the state television, they "risk breaking their neck if they play certain games".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday "the international community must bring about the cessation of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons which endanger the peace of the world and of the Middle East."
Although he did not say what action Israel was looking at taking, media reports last week said he and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were seeking cabinet support for a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran.
Israel last week carried out what national media called a "ballistic missile" test, as well as a large-scale civil defence drill simulating the response to conventional and non-conventional missile attacks.
The United States said on Wednesday it was consulting with allies on ways to put "additional pressure" on Iran.
State department spokesperson Mark Toner said "a range of options" were being considered. "I don't want to rule anything out, or anything in," he said.