Khamenei's comments were 
are directed at rising US rhetoric

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments came amid mounting US allegations that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons programme and is trying to undermine the US occupation in Iraq through support of fellow Shia groups.

Khamenei said Washington had launched psychological warfare in an effort to spread fear among Iranians that they were next in Washington’s “war on terror”.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami condemned Washington’s conduct in a speech opening the three-day Organisation of the Islamic Countries (OIC) conference.

“It is incumbent on us, in the name of Islam, to keep a distance from these two frightening faces,” he said, in apparent reference to Al-Qaeda.

Tehran denies possessing secret atomic facilities or having ties to Al-Qaeda, saying Washington is employing double standards in its “war on terror”. It has also denied allegations of interfering in neighbouring Iraq.

Washington has accused Tehran of not doing enough in combating Al-Qaeda.

But Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said Tehran would try some alleged members of the group under arrest in the Islamic republic.

He told a news conference that “ those who should be sent back to their countries will be and those who have committed acts against Iran will be tried in Iran itself."

Tehran has yet to reveal how many suspected Al-Qaeda members it is detaining.

The foreign minister dismissed US allegations that Iran was protecting Al-Qaeda fugitives. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Tehran was “the first victim of Al-Qaeda and we have been fighting them from the very beginning”.

Washington’s latest string of accusations coincides with reports that the Bush administration may try to topple the Islamic government, while stopping short of military action.

Washington’s accusations have shattered moves to resume dialogue between Iran and the US, which severed diplomatic ties after Tehran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.