( Reuters ) - Iran's army will "cut off the hand" of any attacker and is at the ready to fulfil its defensive duties, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday during an annual military parade.
Iran is embroiled in a row with the West over its nuclear ambitions. The United States, which says Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb, has said it wants a diplomatic resolution to the standoff but has not ruled out military action if that fails.
"The army stands against any aggressor and will cut off its hand," the president said in a televised address before a parade involving troops, tanks, missiles and other military hardware.
He made a similar remark in last year's annual ceremony saying Iran would "cut off the hands of any aggressors." Written above the president's podium were the words: "Peaceful nuclear technology is a fundamental and basic need for our country."
Iran, the world's fourth largest oil exporter, insists it does not seek a nuclear weapon and says it wants to master nuclear technology so it can generate electricity.
Ahmadinejad's statement this month that Iran had begun work to make nuclear fuel on an industrial scale drew condemnation from the West and was a snub to the U.N. Security Council which has demanded Tehran halt all such uranium enrichment work.
The United States has warned Iran it could face further sanctions, which would follow two previous U.N. sanctions resolutions. The first resolution was passed in December. Top Iranian officials have brushed off the impact of sanctions and say Iran is ready for any eventuality.
"To fulfill its responsibilities, (the army) is is at full readiness," the president said, describing Iran's military as a defensive rather than offensive force. "Our army is self sufficient ... and is at the service of peace, brotherhood and security in the region," he added.
Parachutists dropped down from planes over the parade area near the tomb of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. Close by are tens of thousands of graves of those who died in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers loaded onto trucks were driven pass, along with a range of missiles, unmanned surveillance aircraft and two-man submarines with men wearing aqua-lungs standing next to them.
The television commentator described some of the equipment on show as Nazeat-6, heat-seeking Sidewinder and radar-guided Sparrow missiles. A land-to-sea Raad missile was also towed past on a truck.
Iran did not show off its longest range missile, the Shahab-3, which it says can hit targets 2,000 km ( 1,250 miles) away, putting Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf in range.