Iran Rafsanjani warns US not to seek confrontation

TEHRAN, Aug 18, 2006 (AFP) – Top Iranian cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned the United States Friday not to seek confrontation with Tehran over its nuclear program and to learn from the war in Lebanon.

"We expect America to have learned enough (from the Israel-Hezbollah war) not to enter another game and upset the security of the region," Rafsanjani said in his Friday prayer sermon carried live on state radio.

The former president said the United States would be wise to try and resolve its nuclear standoff with Iran through negotiations.

Washington said Thursday it will move quickly for UN Security Council action on sanctions against Iran if Tehran refuses to halt its sensitive uranium enrichment work by August 31, as demanded by a UN resolution.

The United States and other Western countries suspect that Iran is enriching uranium to use in nuclear weapons. Iran insists the program is to make fuel for civilian reactors.

The US administration has never ruled out military option against Iran to resolve the standoff.

Iran has said it will reply by August 22 to a package of incentives offered by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Iran, as well as Syria, stands accused of channeling arms to the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which was involved in a month-long deadly conflict with Israel.

Tehran denies the allegation, saying it only provides "moral support".