TEHRAN, Jan 28 (AFP): The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Saturday that the Islamic republic was ready to use its ballistic missiles if attacked.
"Iran has a ballistic missile capability of 2,000 kilometres (1,280 miles). We do not intend to attack any country, but if we are attacked we have the capability to give an effective response. Our policy is defensive," General Yahya Rahim Safavi told state television.
He was referring to Iran's medium-range Shahab-3 missiles, which are capable of hitting arch-enemy Israel and US bases across the Middle East.
It is not clear how many of the missiles Iran has. Iranian military officials insist they are only tipped with conventional warheads.
The country is currently under mounting international pressure over its disputed nuclear energy drive, seen by Israel and the West as a cover for weapons development.
Iran is facing referral to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme, although Western leaders say it is still premature to talk of tough sanctions against Iran -- let alone military action.
Another report from Switzerland adds: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw struck a conciliatory tone Saturday over Iran's nuclear programme, saying talks had to produce a bargain that allowed Tehran to preserve its national dignity.
In comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Straw said negotiations with Iran were extremely tough going, but that diplomacy was the only way forward.
He said the West, which fears Tehran may be trying to develop nuclear arms, wanted diplomacy "to secure a bargain (that) does not involve humiliation of either side" and allowed Iran to "preserve a sense of national dignity".
"We have to have a bargain which enables both sides to come out of it with their head held high and not low."
"It's hard going. It's hard to think of another government which is harder to negotiate with," he added, but "it's the only way through."
He said Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani would meet Monday with British officials to discuss the issue.
Straw also took pains to underline that Iran had been badly treated by the international community in the past, notably the West's support for its former regime under the Shah and backing for Iraq which fought a bloody 10-year war against its neighbour.
His comments here came ahead of a meeting next Thursday of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency after a call by European Union negotiators Britain, France and Germany, supported by the United States, to refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council for action.
However, Washington and the EU troika have also stressed that diplomacy is still the best way to resolve the crisis over Iran's programme, which Tehran says is for strictly peaceful civilian nuclear power.