UNITED NATIONS — Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday the United States is not in a position to attack his country because Washington cannot afford another costly war in the region.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at a news conference on the last day of the U.N. General Assembly that Iran warned the United States two years ago that Tehran would retaliate if Washington made the "mad decision" to attack. But he did not disclose what the Iranian response would be.
Mottaki stressed that Tehran is not expecting the Bush administration to launch an attack, although the United States has repeatedly said all options remain on the table.
"Our analysis is clear," he said. "U.S. is not in a position to impose another war in our region against their taxpayers."
Mottaki stressed again that "Iran is trying its best to avoid any confrontation in the region" and does not need or want nuclear weapons.
But he said that every country — including Iran — must be prepared to defend itself.
"We have informed two years ago the Americans ... what will happen if they make such (a) mad decision against our country, and they know very well," Mottaki said.
Asked how Iran would retaliate, he said: "The relevant people at that appropriate time will explain to their public opinion."
In the meantime, Mottaki said Iran is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to answer questions about its nuclear program, although he said "I don't know how long it will take."
In a setback for the United States, Iran won a reprieve until November from new U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program. The Bush administration and its European allies ceded to Russian and Chinese demands to give Tehran more time to address questions from the IAEA about its nuclear program, which the U.S. and others allege is a cover for nuclear weapons development.
Mottaki said the foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany finally took "a realistic approach to the issue" on Sept. 28 and supported an initiative by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei that led to the current cooperation with Iran.
He said Iran believes the IAEA is the "right and appropriate" place to consider the issue, adding that "we do hope ... this process does work appropriately."
On Iraq, Mottaki reiterated Iranian calls for a withdrawal of U.S. and other "foreign forces."
He was asked about concerns by some Arab leaders that if U.S. forces leave, Iran would fill the void. When the foreign forces leave Iraq, Mottaki said, "the regional countries, of course including Iran, are in the position to protect stability in the region."