Video: Iran warns of pre-emptive strikes

NBC News and news services
updated 2/21/2012 6:09:20 AM ET 2012-02-21T11:09:20

Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt its national interests were endangered, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic's armed forces was quoted by a semi-official news agency as saying Tuesday.

"Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions,'' Mohammad Hejazi told the Fars news agency, NBC News reported.

Iran announced air defense war games to practice protecting nuclear and other sensitive sites, the latest in a series of military maneuvers viewed as a message to the West that Iran is prepared both to defend itself against an armed strike and to retaliate.

The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear program.

The official news agency IRNA said the four-day air defense war games, dubbed "Sarallah," or "God's Revenge," were taking place in the south of the country and involve anti-aircraft batteries, radar, and warplanes.

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The drill will be held over 73,000 square miles near the port of Bushehr, the site of Iran's lone nuclear power plant.

Iran has held multiple air, land, and sea maneuvers in recent months as the tensions increase.

Hejazi's remarks came as an Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that a United Nations' team visiting Iran had no plans to inspect the country's nuclear facilities and would only hold talks with officials in Tehran.

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The remarks by Ramin Mehmanparast cast doubt on how much the U.N. inspectors would be able to gauge whether Iran is moving ahead with its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The two-day visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency team, which started Monday, is the second in less than a month amid growing concerns over alleged Iranian weapons experiments.

Slideshow: Everyday life in Iran (on this page)

Iran denies charges by the West that it seeks atomic weapons, insisting its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation.

Image: Iran's President Ahmadinejad inaugurates three nuclear projects
Iranian Presidency via EPA
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting Tehran's nuclear reactor on Feb. 15.

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Mehmanparast said the visiting IAEA team was made up of experts, not inspectors.

He told reporters that the IAEA team was holding discussions Tuesday in Tehran to prepare the ground for future cooperation between Iran and the U.N. watchdog. He said this cooperation is at its "best" level.

Video: Mixed messages from Iran over nuke program (on this page)

"The titles of the members of the visiting delegation is not inspectors. This is an expert delegation. The purpose of visit is not inspection," Mehmanparast said.

"The aim is to negotiate about cooperation between Iran and the agency and to set a framework for a continuation of the talks," he added.

Video: Obama administration to Israel: Don't attack Iran (on this page)

Visits to individual Iranian nuclear sites were also not part of the IAEA earlier visit three weeks ago.

But on Monday, Iranian state radio said the U.N. team had asked to visit the Parchin military complex outside Tehran that has been suspected as a secret weapons-making location and also to meet Iranian nuclear scientists involved in the country's controversial program.

"Iran's cooperation with the (IAEA) agency continues and is at its best level," added Mehmanparast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: Slices of life in Iran

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  1. A student learns how to play a musical instrument at Pishtaz School in Tehran on October 15, 2011. Pishtaz, the first computerised pre-school for gifted students in Iran, claims to have pioneered teaching techniques through the means of IT. Parents can watch their children's daily activities from home via CCTV cameras installed throughout the public areas in the school, which includes the classrooms, playgrounds and hallways. (Raheb Homavandi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Local Baluch fishermen push a boat to the shore at a fishing port in Tiss village in the suburb of the port city of Chabahar, 902 miles southeast of Tehran, near the Strait of Hormuz on January 16, 2012. (Raheb Homavandi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Dog lover Neda plays with the strays at the Vafa animal shelter in the town of Hashtgerd, about 45 miles west of the capital Tehran on June 30, 2011. The first animal shelter in Iran, the non-government charity relies on private donations and volunteers to provide shelter to injured and homeless dogs in Iran. Canine lovers in the Islamic Republic are faced with a motion put forth by lawmakers in the conservative-dominated to ban the public appearance of dogs due to their "uncleanness" and to combat "a blind imitation of vulgar Western culture." If the motion becomes law, first-time offenders will be fined five million rials (472 USD or 337 euros) and will be given a 10-day period to get rid of the dog or face the canine's confiscation to an unknown fate. (Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. University students cross a street during a snow storm in Tehran onNovember 8, 2010. A rare autumn snow blanketed much of northern Iran closing roads and schools in mountainous regions. (Caren Firouz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Iranian women and a man weave carpet in a workshop in Qom, 78 miles south of the capital Tehran. Deep in Tehran's carpet bazaar, the merchants and laborers occupy chambers that have changed little over the centuries. But Iran's carpet industry now faces some modern pressures. The country's more than 1 million weavers _ producing an average of $500 million in exports a year _ are fighting against competitors in major workshops in places such as Pakistan and China. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The hand of a worker at a carpet workshop in Qom. (Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Coffee mugs bearing pictures of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs are displayed for sale as a man works on a MacBook at a shop in Payetakht (Capital) computer centre in northern Tehran on January 19, 2012. (Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Actors take part in a re-enactment of the 7th century battle of Kerbala during the "Taziyeh" religious theatre performance on Tasoua, a day before Ashura, in Noushabad, Isfahan province on December 5, 2011. Ashura, the most important day in the Shi'ite Muslim calendar, commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, in the 7th century battle of Kerbala. (Raheb Homavandi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Iranian-Christian woman looks at Christmas decorations while shopping in central Tehran on December 13, 2011. (Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Iranian Jewish men pray during Hanukkah celebrations at the Yousefabad Synagogue, in Tehran, Iran on Dec. 27, 2011. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A man leaves after shopping at a fruit store in Tehran on January 6, 2012. International sanctions aimed at depriving Iran's nuclear programme of funds and technology are squeezing Tehran's vital oil exports and government finances. In September 2010 the government pushed through cuts in fuel subsidies despite public and parliamentary opposition. Rising utility prices have since forced factories to shut - an estimated 180 in Tehran alone. Prices of basic goods like bread, meat and rice are increasing daily. Meat is too expensive for many, costing $20 a kilo. Iranian opposition websites regularly issue reports of layoffs and strikes by workers who haven't been paid for months, including in government-owned factories. (Raheb Homavandi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A cleric waits for the start of a conference titled "Gaza, a Symbol of Resistance" in Tehran on January 18, 2012. (Caren Firouz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Iranian woman Mahnaz Mollaei, right, teaches rollerblading to a girl at the Pardis club, in the central city of Isfahan, 234 miles south of the capital Tehran, Iran on Jan. 1, 2012. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A woman makes a purchase at a store in Tehran on January 6, 2012. (Raheb Homavandi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A street money exchanger, puts US dollars in a plastic bag, in Ferdowsi St. in downtown Tehran, Iran, Wednesday on Dec. 21, 2011. The rial hit a record low on Wednesday, with the US dollar selling for 16,150 rials in foreign currency exchange offices. The dollar sold for about 10,500 rials last December and in 1979 _ the year an Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi _ it was 70 rials against the dollar. Iran has restricted cash withdrawals and allows banks to sell only $2,000 per year to each person traveling outside the country. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Shoe repairman, Aziz, 86, works in a street in downtown Tehran in November 2010. The most potent challenge to Iran's ruling system may not be international sanctions or the homegrown political opposition, but something as simple as a shopping list. Islamic leaders are starting to trim an estimated $100 billion a year in government subsidies for fuel and food staples that many low-income Iranians consider a birthright. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A jockey competes during the summer races at the Norouzabad Equestrian center on the outskirts of Tehran on September 16, 2011. (Caren Firouz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Spectators cheer as the horses run during the summer races at the Norouzabad Equestrian center on the outskirts of Tehran on September 16, 2011. Under Islamic sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are "predicting" through official channels. (Caren Firouz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. An unidentified Iranian vendor wait for customer to sell flags of two Iranian giant soccer teams Esteghlal, left, and Persepolis, right, prior to start of their 73rd derby match, during Iran's Jam-e-Hazfi, or Elimination Cup, at the Azadi (Freedom) stadium in Tehran, Iran, on Dec. 9, 2011. Iran's top two soccer teams fought in a quarter final match of the cup and Esteghlal won 3-0. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Ghazaleh Miramini, left, practices guitar with her music teacher Amir Salami at a music school in Tehran on Nov. 3, 2011. In the 1980s, Iran's music almost vanished. Music schools went into full recession, police or militias stopped cars to check what passengers were listening to and broke tapes playing pre-revolutionary singers, and clerical institutions even banned music as un-Islamic. But Iran's social life has dramatically changed a decade later, with a landslide victory of former President Mohammad Khatami with relaxing some of rigid restrictions on cultural and social activities, including bans on music bands, but Iran has tightened censorship of books, films, and music since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Amin Gholami, right, dances in Azeri-style as Aydin Kanani plays a Gaval, a large-sized tambourine, in the Gharadagh mountainous area in northwestern Iran on Oct. 26, 2011. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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