KHATAMI WARNS US NOT TO SUPPORT IRANIAN OPPOSITION ABROAD

Tehran, 11 Feb. (IPS) President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, in a speech marking the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, warned bluntly the United States not to repeat his past mistakes by giving support to Iranian opponents and exiles abroad.

"America has once tried its luck in confronting this nation by supporting the regime of Shah, but I hope it will not be under further illusion to support the remnants of the former regime" he told thousands of the people bussed to the Azadi (Freedom) square for the occasion.

Political analysts say Mr. Khatami’s though tongue language is another sign to his further siding with the ruling conservatives, as he become more isolated among reformist currents and rejected by the students and young Iranians.

"Khatami has become a liability for the forces of democracy and freedom in Iran. His political record in the past year and half is deceiving. Instead of acting more aggressively during his second and last mandate, he became more stranger to the promises of reforms, separated himself from his reform seeking advisers while applying the ruling conservative’s directives and guidelines. During this period, he proved that he is one of the weakest of Iranian politicians in the contemporary Iran. It took him four years to be metamorphosed in another Hashemi Rafsanjani" (the former Iranian president), commented young political analyst and journalist Nima Rashedan.

"Independence and freedom from the yoke of the aliens have been the 150-year-long will of the Iranian nation over the past and only totalitarian rulers and their associates which used to rule on this country have been opposed to its independence", Mr. Khatami said, confirming indirectly the growing popularity of Iranian dissidents and exiled elite.

Mr. Khatami insisted that Iranians were "fully united" in defending the ideals of the Islamic revolution. But all recent polls confirms the contrary, pointing out to growing public demand for a referendum allowing people to choose freely their desired regime, one that, according to Mr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, an outspoken lawyer and former MM (Member of the Majles) and critic of the Islamic Republic, "is based on secularism and parliamentarian democracy".

Mr. Khatami reiterated Iran's "categorical rejection" of a probable US attack on Iraq, "a war that is in line with America's unilateral policy of illegitimate intervention in other countries' fate".

On Monday, Mr. Khatami had lashed out at US’ unilateral policies, including Washington's strategy of pre-emptive strikes, which, he said, had put the humanity to the "greatest dangers".

"Pre-emptive attacks, which have been included in the new American security strategy, pose the biggest threats to the humanity today", the Iranian president told a group of foreign diplomats and envoys based in Tehran.

He was echoing an earlier statement by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who, on Friday, had described the presence of American forces in the region "worse than possession of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of the Iraqi dictator.

However, in his revolution day speech, Mr. Khatami distanced himself from sounding to support the Iraqi regime, which imposed an eight-year war against Iran, leading to massive human and property losses, the official news agency IRNA reported.

"Our opposition to any attack on Iraq does not imply that we are content with the Iraqi regime", he said, adding "a military strike, besides inflicting massive damage to the noble Iraqi people, will lead to tension and insecurity in the region", the powerless Khatami said.

In a shift of policy, Tehran has assured Iraqi forces and organisations opposed to Saddam Hoseyn, mostly the Kurds and the Shi’ites, of its support for their struggle in case Washington starts military operations against Iraq.

It has also told the United States it would assist its pilots and planes in case they make emergency landing in Iranian soil during bombing missions over neighbouring Iraq. ENDS REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY 11203