TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Sunday that oil shipments from the Gulf region would be disrupted if the United States attacked his nation, but his threat was dismissed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Khamenei also insisted in a speech broadcast live on state-run radio that Tehran will not give up its right to produce nuclear fuel. He added that Iran is not seeking a nuclear bomb as the West suspects.
"If you make any mistake [invade Iran], definitely shipment of energy from this region will be seriously jeopardized. You have to know this," Khamenei said.
He added that if there was a disruption, the United States and its allies could not secure all the oil shipments that transit close to Iran's coast. Much of the world's oil supply passes through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which links the Gulf to the Indian Ocean and separates Iran from the Arabian Peninsula.
"You will never be able to protect energy supply in this region. You will not be able to do it," he said, addressing the West.
Rice told "FOX News Sunday" that "we shouldn't place too much emphasis on a threat of this kind" because Iran also has an interest in protecting its major source of revenues.
"What we should place emphasis on is Iran's opportunity to find a way out of this impasse," Rice said.
Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil exporter and second-biggest power within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Iranian officials repeatedly have ruled out using oil as a weapon in the nuclear standoff with the West.
Western nations have offered an incentives package to persuade Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program. If Tehran refuses, the nations threaten U.N. sanctions.
Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead.
The United States and other Western nations suspect Iran's nuclear program is intended to produce weapons. Tehran insists it is only for generating electricity.
The supreme leader's harsh rhetoric came a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a breakthrough in negotiations over Tehran's contentious nuclear program was possible and welcomed unconditional talks with all parties, including the United States.
In a major policy shift, the United States agreed this week to join France, Britain and Germany in talks with Iran, provided Tehran suspends all suspect nuclear activities. It would be the first major public negotiations between Washington and Tehran in more than 25 years.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomed the U.S. offer of direct talks, Rossiya state television reported Sunday. Moscow has offered to host Iran's uranium enrichment effort if it agrees to end domestic uranium enrichment, but Tehran has rejected that link.
Ahmadinejad said late Saturday his government would not rush to judge the incentives package.
Khamenei appeared to be taking a tougher line Sunday.
"That a country has no right to achieve proficiency in nuclear technology means it has to beg a few Western and European countries for energy in the next 20 years," he said. "Which honest leader is ready to accept this?"
Khamenei said Iran was not a threat to any country and that Tehran was not seeking nuclear weapons.
"We have not threatened any neighbor ... accusations that we are seeking nuclear bomb is wrong, a sheer lie," he said.
"We have no target to use a nuclear bomb. It's against Islamic teachings."
However, Ahmadinejad repeatedly has questioned Israel's right to exist and said in October the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."
Khamenei insisted Sunday that the production and maintenance of an atomic bomb would "impose a lot of irrelevant costs," and a state like Iran did not need such a weapon.
"Unlike the U.S., we have no claim to dominate the world," he added.
The supreme leader told his nation that pressure on Iran to cease nuclear research stemmed solely from the United States and its close allies.
Khamenei said Iran had "sound and good relations" with Europe, as well as with the Arab world and Russia.
"There is no consensus against Iran. This is a lie by the U.S. and few other U.S. supporters," he said.
"Some 116 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement supported Iran's brave achievements in nuclear technology," Khamenei said, referring to a support motion passed at a NAM meeting last month.
NAM, the world's biggest bloc after the United Nations, comprises mostly developing countries and anti-U.S. nations such as North Korea and Cuba. Its support motion to Iran is purely moral.
"Consensus is among a few monopolist countries. Their consensus is of no value," insisted Khamenei.
His comments came as European Union diplomacy chief Javier Solana was expected in Tehran to deliver the package of incentives agreed upon Thursday by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.