America will not tolerate Iranian nuclear arms, warns Bush

In his sternest warning yet to Iran, the United States President, George Bush, declared yesterday that he and other world leaders would not tolerate the development of nuclear weapons by the Islamic republic. He also demanded that the clerical regime treat "with the utmost respect" the pro-democracy protesters taking daily to the streets of Tehran.

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Iran and its suspected nuclear programme have moved to the top of the Bush administration's worry list. Though Iran insists its nuclear activities are purely for civilian purposes, US analysts believe Tehran could have a nuclear bomb as soon as 2006.

"The international community must ... make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon," Mr Bush said yesterday at the White House. There had been "near-universal agreement" at this month's G8 summit in Evian, France, to prevent that, he added.

Washington says as well as seeking nuclear weapons, the clerical regime is sheltering al-Qa'ida operatives and sponsoring anti-Israeli terrorism.

Washington hopes international pressure and the latest student-led protests against the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will change the regime's ways.Reformists warn explicit support by the US may undermine the protesters' cause.

* Protesters in London and Paris set themselves alight in demonstrations against raids on Mujahedeen Khalq, listed as a terrorist group by the US and the EU, in Paris.

In Paris, a woman died and two other people were injured after setting themselves on fire outside France's intelligence agency. In London last night Neda Hassani, 25, an Iranian living in Canada who was on holiday in the UK, was in a serious condition a day after Heshmat Zandi, 38, from Borehamwood, Herts, was also discovered ablaze outside the embassy.

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