Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned on Tuesday his country would hit back at any attack by the United States or Israel, firming tensions in the showdown over Tehran's nuclear programme.
"We have said that we do not have atomic weapons and we will not build any. But if there is any attack by the enemies, whether it be United States or the Zionist regime, we will attack them at the same level as they attack us," he said in a live televised speech to mark the start of the Iranian new year.
The comments reinforced Iran's position as it faces off against the West over its nuclear activities, and as it confronts Israeli and US threats of possible military action.
Khamenei, who was speaking in the northeastern city of Mashhad, said Iran had a divine right to retaliate if struck.
"The Koran states that if an enemy attacks you first, the enemy will certainly be defeated," he said.
"This is God's law. We are not thinking of attacks and aggression, but we are attached to the existence and identity of the Islamic republic."
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He accused the United States and its European allies of changing their pretexts for interfering with Iran, and claimed the true goal was to control Iran's vast oil and gas reserves.
"Once, it is the atomic issue ... (another time) it is the human rights issue. The real issue is that the Iran is guarding its oil and gas resources," the leader said.
"When the day comes that they (the West) cannot obtain any more oil and gas, that will be the day they will have to makes concessions, and it will be catastrophic for them," he said.
In the meantime, Iran was an "attractive" target for those nations, and they wanted to treat it like "putty in their hands," he said.
"We will not allow them to do so, and they will remain our enemies," he said.
"Those who think if we yield on the nuclear issue then US hostility towards us will decrease, they are wrong. Their case (the US case) against us is not the nuclear programme nor is it human rights. It is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is standing against them," he said.