Iran Warns US Not to Violate Airspace During Afghan Strikes
Iran will defend its airspace against any violations by US planes during expected strikes against Afghanistan over the September 11 terrorist attacks, Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani warned Monday.
"We will defend our airspace and territory," Shamkhani said when asked what Iran's military response would be to violations by US planes.
"We are military men, we don't joke with anyone," Shamkhani told a press conference at Tehran airport before leaving for a visit to Moscow.
Shamkhani also admitted that Iran has provided weapons to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, and said it will continue to arm the fighters amid signs the ruling Taliban militia is losing its grip on power.
"We continue to support the Northern Alliance as in the past," Shamkhani told reporters, and simply answered "yes" to whether that meant supplying arms to the Afghan opposition.
Shamkhani also cautioned on Sunday that a stepped up US military presence in the Gulf region would have "unpredictable" consequences.
"The development and reinforcement of US military forces in the region will have unpredictable consequences," the defense minister was quoted as telling the official IRNA news agency.
"Iran's armed forces are watching the military and political changes and evolutions in the region very carefully," he added.
Iran is staunchly opposed to the Taliban but has rejected US military strikes against its eastern neighbor in retaliation for the terror attacks on New York and Washington.
The United States and London have also stepped up their sizeable forces already in the Middle East as they prepare military steps against Afghanistan for sheltering Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the terror attacks.
Washington has not had diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran for the past two decades and lists Tehran as a state sponsor of terrorism for its support of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah -- TEHRAN (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)