Iran's spiritual leader today called the struggle against the United States a "holy war" and said Muslims who die fighting the U.S. presence in the region will go to heaven as martyrs.
The call by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came a day after Tehran reportedly agreed to give Iraq food and medicine in exchange for oil and cash. Such a deal could puncture the U.N. embargo that aims to force Iraq out of Kuwait.
Khamenei's pronouncement also came two days after Iran said it plans to renew full diplomatic relations with Iraq, which is seeking to break the isolation imposed on it since it invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Speaking on Tehran Radio, Khamenei said: "Muslim nations will not allow America to set up its security and defense system in the region.
"The struggle against American aggression, greed, plans and policies in the Persian Gulf will be counted as jihad (holy war), and anybody who is killed on that path is a martyr," he said.
More than 400 Americans and Britons who had been stranded in Kuwait, meanwhile, took off today from Baghdad, ending a six-week ordeal. Their Boeing 747 was chartered jointly by the United States and Britain.