- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

TEHRAN (AP) | Iran’s supreme leader said Sunday that U.S. officials know they are wrongly accusing Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

In Iran’s first official reaction to the U.S. decision to scrap a European missile-intercept system to defend against threats from Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed the Obama administration is following the same policies as its predecessor.

“The U.S. officials who talk about Iranian missiles and their danger while saying Iran intends to build a nuclear bomb, they know these words are wrong,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in remarks broadcast on state-run radio. “Despite its apparent friendly messages and words,” the Obama administration is pursuing the same policy of Iran-phobia, he said.

The U.S. administration has invited Iran to start a dialogue on its nuclear program and gave a vague September deadline for Tehran to take up the offer. The United States and five other world powers accepted an offer from Iran earlier this month to hold “comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive” talks on security issues, including global nuclear disarmament.

EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana will meet Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, on Oct. 1 for talks.

U.S. officials have said the recent decision to scrap a land-based anti-missile system in Eastern Europe was based largely on a new U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran’s effort to build a nuclear-capable long-range missile would take three to five years longer than originally thought.

The scrapped plan will be replaced by one initially geared more to the threat of short- and medium-range missiles from Iran.

In a speech marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Ayatollah Khamenei appeared to be working to iron out tensions that have created the country’s biggest domestic political crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution - the fallout from the disputed June 12 election, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won re-election in a race critics say was marred by widespread fraud.

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