Iran's Ayatollah labels US and UK enemies

Khamenei labels the US and Britain Tehran's main 'enemies' and warns they will fail to isolate Iran over its nuclear issue.

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Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out Sunday at the US and Britain, labelling them Tehran's main "enemies" and warning they will fail to isolate Iran over its nuclear issue. "Americans are at the head of the list of enemies and the British are the most awful of them," Khamenei said on state television in an address to thousands of people to mark a major Shiite ceremony. "Americans, Zionists and other oppressive powers tried to isolate Iran for the past 30 years, but they failed and with God's help they will also fail in the future."

Khamenei, Iran's all-powerful leader who has the final say in all national issues, said Western powers led by Washington are lying when they claim Tehran's nuclear programme is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. "We ask them to stop lying and as we have said in the past the Iranian nation is pursuing nuclear technology and if we do not achieve it today, then tomorrow when the world economy is driven by nuclear power we will be late," the cleric said, reasserting that Iran's nuclear intent is entirely peaceful. "The Iranian nation wants to achieve it so that it does not have to beg to Westerners 20 or 30 years later."

He also said that when the "oppressive powers fail to achieve their goal against a country through threats of military action or sanctions, then they start saying that there is a division inside that country. "We have to be careful as the enemy will launch propaganda to say that there is division." Tension over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme has peaked in recent weeks after it rejected a high-profile nuclear deal brokered by the UN atomic watchdog and also announced plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants.

World powers object to Tehran's uranium enrichment programme as the process can be used to enrich the material to produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or to make atom bomb. On Saturday, Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi in fact said Tehran needs 20 uranium enrichment plants to produce fuel enough to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity. Iran's main flagship enrichment plant is in the central city of Natanz where it processes uranium in defiance of three sets of UN sanctions. It is building a second plant near the Shiite holy city of Qom, much to the dislike of world powers, some of whom have threatened to levy a new set of sanctions on Iran.

But Iranian officials have vowed to continue with the enrichment programme and have dismissed threats of sanctions. * AFP