Iran Says Will Not Attack U.S. Jets in Its Airspace

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TEHRAN - Iran's defense minister said Sunday its forces would not regard U.S. aircraft as enemy if they unintentionally enter Iran's airspace during possible strikes on neighboring Iraq.

"If American airplanes in their war against Iraq enter Iranian airspace by mistake, they will not be regarded as enemy," the state-run Iran newspaper Sunday quoted Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani Shamkhani as saying.

"Iran will regard any unintentional incursion as unintentional provided it is not harmful to Iran's interests and sufficient proof is provided," Shamkhani said in an interview with the Kuwaiti Al-Rai Al-Aam newspaper, the Iran daily reported.

Iran, branded as part of an "axis of evil" by Washington, is opposed to a U.S. military attack on Iraq. But it has also called on Baghdad to comply with United Nations resolutions to avert a possible war.

U.S. President George W. Bush is pushing for a tougher UN resolution on Iraqi weapons inspections, and has called for "regime change" in Baghdad, which Washington believes is developing weapons of mass destruction.

Officials in Tehran describe their policy on Iraq as one of "active neutrality" and have said they will not be drawn into any conflict.

The United States cut diplomatic ties with Iran after students seized its embassy in Tehran in 1979 following the Islamic revolution.



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