TEHRAN, Iran — A day before flying to New York to speak directly to the American people, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck a confrontational tone Saturday with a parade of fighter jets and missiles and tough warnings for the United States to stay out of the Mideast.
Three new domestically manufactured warplanes streaked over the capital during the parade marking the 27th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran, which sparked a 1980-88 war that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The parade also featured the Ghadr missile, which has a range of 1,120 miles, capable of reaching Israel.
Some of the missile trucks were painted with the slogans "Down with the U.S." and "Down with Israel." The parade also featured unmanned aerial surveillance drones, torpedoes, and tanks.
Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and helping Shiite militias in Iraq that target U.S. troops. Iran denies the claims.
Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but U.S. officials also say that all options are open.
"Those (countries) who assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran's fast drive toward progress are mistaken," Ahmadinejad.
Iran launched an arms development program during its war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own jets, torpedoes, radar-avoiding missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
"Those who prevented Iran, at the height of the war from getting even barbed wire must see now that all the equipment on display today has been built by the mighty hands and brains of experts at Iran's armed forces," Ahmadinejad said.
He is expected to address the American people directly in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" airing Sunday, and through appearances at the U.N., Columbia University and several other events.
His request to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site was denied and condemned by Sept. 11 family members and politicians. Protests against his Columbia appearance are planned at the university and the United Nations by demonstrators angry at his questioning of the Holocaust and declarations that Israel will cease to exist.
Iran and the U.S. have not had diplomatic ties since militants took over the U.S. Embassy following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since then, the cleric-led regime has vilified the United States as the "Great Satan."
Despite Ahmadinejad's frequent anti-U.S. rhetoric, he has tried to appeal to the American people before. Recently, he told a live satellite television show that his country wanted peace and friendship with the U.S. Since coming to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad has also sent letters to the American people in which he criticized Bush's Mideast policy.
He is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Tuesday — his third time attending the New York meeting in three years. Last year, Ahmadinejad was harshly critical of U.S. policies in Iraq and Lebanon and insisted that his nation's nuclear activities were "transparent."
At the parade, Ahmadinejad repeated his demand for foreign forces to leave the region and urged the United States to acknowledge it has failed in Iraq. Outside the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, there are 40,000 troops on U.S. bases in Persian Gulf countries and another 20,000 in Mideast waters.
"Nations throughout the region do not need the presence of the foreigners to manage their own needs. Foreign presence is the root cause of all instability, differences and threats," he said.
‘Don't repeat your mistakes’
On the sidelines of the parade, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the event highlighted the "might of Iran's armed forces to its enemies," adding that Iran is ready to retaliate if attacked.
"Iran has drawn up plans to confront enemies in the face of any possible attack," the official IRNA news agency quoted Jafari as saying.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also issued a warning against any launch of a limited strike on Iran.
"Military aggression against Iran in the form of a hit-and-run attack is not possible anymore," he was quoted on television as saying to the nation's top military leaders. "Anybody attacking us will become entangled with grave consequences."
The Bush administration is expected to soon blacklist a unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, subjecting part of the vast military operation to financial penalties. The step would be in response to Iran's involvement in Iraq and elsewhere.
The U.S. is also leading a push in the U.N. Security Council for a third round of economic sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity. The Security Council is not expected to take up the issue before October.
"Learn lessons from your past mistakes. Don't repeat your mistakes," he said in a warning to the United States over its push to impose more sanctions.
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