TEHRAN Nov 10 Iran's Supreme Leader warned the United States and Israel on Thursday not to launch any military action against its nuclear sites, saying it would be met with "iron fists," state television reported.
"Our enemies, particularly the Zionist regime (Israel), America and its allies, should know that any kind of threat and attack or even thinking about any (military) action will be firmly responded to," the television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.
"The Revolutionary Guards and army and our nation ... will answer attacks with strong slaps and iron fists," he said.
Speculation about an imminent attack on Iran was fuelled last week when Israel test-launched a long-range missile near Tel Aviv and by comments by some Israeli officials that Tehran's nuclear programme posed a "direct and heavy" threat.
Tension rose on Tuesday when the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research.
Iran denounced the U.N. inspectors' report as "unbalanced" and "politically motivated."
Israel on Wednesday called on the world to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons while Western powers called for heavier sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The United States and European allies say Iran is trying to build bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear programme. The major oil producer denies this, saying it needs nuclear technology to improve its electricity supply for a rapidly growing population.
Israel, which Iran refuses to recognise, sees a nuclear Iran as a threat to its existence and has said all options are on the table in confronting Tehran, including a military one. But it remains publicly committed to a world power strategy of increased diplomatic pressure and sanctions against Iran.
Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak atomic reactor in 1981 and carried out a similar strike in Syria in 2007.
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