TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that Iran would "cut off the hand of any aggressor" and insisted Tuesday the country's military must be prepared amid escalating tensions with the international community over its disputed nuclear program.
The defiant stance came hours before a meeting in Moscow of senior diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany to discuss the issue and less than two weeks before a council deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment.
"Today, you are among the world's most powerful armies because you rely on God," Ahmadinejad declared at a parade to commemorate Army Day.
"Iran's enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and the land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut off the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead," Ahmadinejad said.
The United States, Britain, Japan, Israel, France and Germany have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained its right to enrich uranium and says it is only building nuclear facilities to generate electricity.
President Bush said Tuesday that "all options are on the table" to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons but said he would continue to focus on the international diplomatic option to persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions.
"We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so," Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden.
Bush also said there should be a unified effort involving countries "who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon," and he noted that U.S. officials are working closely nations such as Great Britain, France and Germany on the issue."
Bush was asked if his administration was planning for the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
"All options are on the table," he said.
Ahmadinejad said Iran's army "has to be constantly ready, equipped and powerful. It has to be equipped with the latest technologies, recognize the enemy and constantly be vigilant." He spoke to military officers before a parade of the armed forces in southern Tehran.
While threatening possible aggressors, Ahmadinejad said Iran's army would "serve peace and security for mankind especially the region and its neighbors."
The "power of our army will be no threat to any country. Our army carries the message of peace and security... . It is humble toward friends and a shooting star toward enemies," he said.
The president's speech and the military parade were broadcast live on state-run Iranian television. Foreign military attaches were present.
The parade provided another opportunity for Iran to show off its military equipment, including missiles that are difficult to track with radar, super-fast torpedoes recently tested in war games, and other domestically produced weapons.
The radar-avoiding missiles, 705-pound bombs, high-speed torpedoes, tanks and other armament were carried on trucks.
Among the weapons tested in the war games and displayed Tuesday was the Fajr-3, a missile that can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads, and a high-speed torpedo designed to sink war ships.
The United States has said Iran may have made "some strides" in its military but was likely exaggerating its capabilities.
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.
Iran's regular army is separate from the elite Revolutionary Guards that make up the backbone of the ruling Islamic establishment.
Ahmadinejad has been increasingly defiant and made several high-profile threatening statements since announcing last Tuesday that Iran has successfully enriched uranium using 164 centrifuges, a significant step toward the large-scale production of a material that can be used to fuel nuclear reactors for generating electricity — or to build atomic bombs.