TEHRAN, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An Iranian military leader warned Tuesday the country will "hit a retaliatory blow" if it feels its "enemies want to endanger our national interests."
Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, a deputy head of the army, quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, who warned in November that Iran would make a "tough response" to any aggression, the Fars News Agency reported.
"Given this strategy, we will make use of all our means to protect our national interests and hit a retaliatory blow at them whenever we feel that enemies want to endanger our national interests," Hejazi said.
There has been speculation Israel is considering an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran Sunday stopped exports of crude oil to French and British companies because of those countries' involvement in the effort to step up sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Also Tuesday, Seyed Ali Hosseini, the Iranian ambassador to Italy, said Iran has a right under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear power. Hosseini said the "pressures, sanctions, threats and even the cowardly assassination of Iran's nuclear scientists" would not make Iran surrender that right.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon was in Jerusalem during the weekend to discuss "security matters and our important relationship with Israel, and specifically Iran; discussing the fact that Israel and the United States share the same objective, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."
Carney said the latest sanctions have left Iran "isolated as never before, where it is under pressure economically as never before, where there is an international consensus around the idea that ... the problem here is Iranian bad behavior; their refusal to live up to their international obligations."
Carney said President Barack Obama believes "there is time and space for diplomacy to work, for the effect of sanctions to result in a change in Iranian behavior, an agreement by Iran to live up to its obligations, to engage in negotiations and to resolve this matter peacefully."
Still, he reiterated, the United States will not "take any option off the table" when it comes to dealing with Iran and its nuclear ambitions.