Iran would "cut off the hands" of any enemy that attacked the country, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned on Sunday, amid increasing tensions with the West after recent missile tests.
"Before the enemies touch the trigger, Iran's armed forces will cut off their hands," Ahmadinejad said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
His comments came after Iran intensified tensions in the nuclear standoff by conducting two days of missile tests, which included the firing of a missile that it says can reach Israel.
"This is only a small part of Iran's defence capabilities and in future we will unveil more of our defence capabilities if it is needed," Ahmadinejad said.
The United States and its regional ally Israel have never ruled out a military attack to end Iran's controversial nuclear work, which the West fears could be used to make weapons -- a charge vehemently denied by Iran.
There has been concern an attack against Iran could be imminent after it emerged Israel had carried out manoeuvres in Greece that were effectively dry runs for a potential strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran has always warned of a ferocious response to any attack. A military official said on Saturday that Iran would target "the heart of Israel" and 32 US bases in the event of any attack.
Tehran said on Wednesday that it test-fired its Shahab-3 missile -- the longest-range weapon in its arsenal -- and eight other missiles. It said it fired more missiles on Thursday in land manouevres at night and naval war games by day.
But diplomatic efforts to end the crisis have also continued, with world powers proposing a package offering Tehran technological incentives if it suspends sensitive uranium enrichment.
Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is to meet EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana -- who leads the talks on behalf of world powers -- in Geneva on July 19 in their latest effort to break the deadlock, Iranian officials said.
Hopes of a breakthrough rose in recent weeks after Ali Akbar Velayati, the top foreign policy advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it would be in Iran's interests to accept the package.
But Ahmadinejad on Sunday bluntly said that Velayati "has no involvement in nuclear issue decision making".
"Mr Velayati is an esteemed person. He has opinions and he states his opinion. Everyone in the Islamic Republic of Iran is free to state their opinion."
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly vowed that Tehran will never suspend enrichment as demanded by world powers, which fear Iran could use the process to make a nuclear weapon.
"Some people wanted to organise a celebration and say that Iran had stepped back but their celebration did not last long," said Ahmadinejad.
"The government is in charge of the nuclear issue... taking into account the positions of the supreme leader," he added.
But a leading Iranian reformist newspaper wrote in an editorial that the current exchange of threats and muscle-flexing on both sides could be aimed at saving face before reaching a compromise deal.
"One can see that the military threats by the two sides have an aspect of prestige to show their strength to domestic and foreign public opinion," the Etemad daily said.
"On the other hand, talks are taking place which can act as water over fire and quieten the hostilities if they reach an acceptable point," it added.
Copyright AFP 2008