TEHRAN, 17 Feb. (IPS) Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i Monday publicly took the defence of Iraq in face of the United States, stating that even though the US might get control of Iraq in short term, but, ultimately, the Iraqi nation will drive the Americans out of their country.

"America, with all its superficial power, would receive such a slap in the face by Iraq that it would fall from the height of power", the unpopular leader of the Islamic Republic told a gathering in the north-western city of Tabriz.

His pro-Iraqi speech came one day after more than a hundred of Iranian lawmakers presented the Majles with a motion aimed at impeaching the Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazi on the regime’s Iraqi policy they say is tantamount to an open support for the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hoseyn.

"At a time that the days of Saddam are numbered, one does not understand why we should support a man who attacked Iran, killed and wounded millions of Iranians, ruined our economy and even more, gassed his own people, mostly the Kurds", one deputy observed.

Protesting deputies also questioned the Minister for his invitation of Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, but Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the lamed President and leader of the Islamic Iran participation Front opposed the motion on the ground that it weakened Iran’s diplomacy.

Explaining the invitation, Mr. Kharrazi said it was part of Iran’s consultations with all the sides involved in the Iraqi crisis, but he did not say why Tehran excludes Washington from the consultations, if it does so.

But though that the great majority of Iranians favour the toppling of Saddam Hoseyn, Ayatollah Khameneh’i continue to oppose American plans to attack Baghdad and install a democratic government there.

Explaining Mr. Khameneh’i’s staunch anti-American policy, observers say he is genuinely afraid that a change of government in Baghdad might affect the present Iranian theocracy, at a time that the public is openly pushing for a secular, democratic system for Iran.

In his speech to hundreds of cheerful lumpen bussed in for the occasion and broadcast live by the Voice and Visage (radio and television) of the Islamic Republic, a sensitive body he directly controls, Mr. Khameneh’i repeated that Iran would not allow the "American highway robbers and savages in civilised clothing" to dominate our country again.

"Washington wants to change the political map of the Middle East, become the master of the populations of this region, rob our wealth and to give our oil to the Zionists (Israel). This clearly shows that the US government wants the big Zionist companies and the oppression centres of the world to swallow Iraq's human and material resources", he charged.

"America says it intends to appoint an American as the Iraqi ruler and channel all the Iraqi resources into the pockets of the American and Zionist companies. This, once again, proves that they don't believe in human rights, democracy and humanitarian values. Such a plan of course will never be materialized, he assured.

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr. Khameneh’i said that the Iranian nation was proud of their faithful and brave youth who will carry the flag of the Islamic Revolution for next generations.

"Iranian youth are the best in the world. I believe in the youth with my full heart and believe that they will undertake their historical duty by passing the hardest possible examinations", he said, obviously oblivion of pressing demands by the same youth for holding a referendum allowing the smooth change of the theocracy to a full-fledged democracy. ENDS KHAMENEHI DEFENDIN SADDAM 17203