Tehran, Iran Iran's hard-line president said Monday he was thinking about withdrawing from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty if the U.N. atomic agency tries to prevent his country from enriching uranium.
In a rare news conference with foreign journalists, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also predicted the U.N. Security Council would not impose sanctions on Iran, which is facing a Friday deadline to halt enrichment because of suspicions it is trying to develop atomic weapons.
Ahmadinejad's government insists the nonproliferation treaty gives Iran the right to enrich uranium for fueling civilian nuclear power plants, and he has given no ground in the international faceoff.
The United States, Britain and France maintain Iran also wants enriched uranium for atomic bombs, which would violate its commitments under the treaty. Iran denies the charge, but Washington is pressing fellow members of the Security Council to impose economic sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that the credibility of the Security Council would be in doubt if it does not take clear-cut action against Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, .
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, reported Tehran to the Security Council last month and gave it one month to address the demands.
"When the international community reconvenes after the 30 days, there has to be some message, clear message, that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, or you will start to call into question the credibility of what the Security Council says when it says it," Rice said while flying to diplomatic visits to Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.
The fiery Ahmadinejad said he was reconsidering Iran's adherence to the nonproliferation treaty, which is aimed at stopping the spread of atomic weapons while allowing peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and membership in the IAEA.
"What has more than 30 years of membership in the agency given us?" he asked at the news conference, which was only the second since he took office last year at which foreign journalists have been allowed to ask questions.
"Working in the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the agency is our concrete policy," he said. "(But) if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept (our rights), well, we will reconsider."
Suspicions about Iran's intentions have grown since it was discovered in 2002 that the Tehran regime had for two decades secretly operated large-scale nuclear activities that could be used in weapons making.
Iran deepened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had for the first time enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges - a step toward large-scale production of nuclear fuel.
The United States and others are urging the Security Council to take a tougher stance by imposing a mandatory order for Iran to halt enrichment, a move that would raise the threat of sanctions.
Russian and China, which are among the five permanent members that can veto council actions, have opposed that approach, saying diplomacy has not run its course. Ahmadinejad appears to be banking on their support to dissuade Washington from pressing a sanctions vote.
"I don't expect they will do this," Ahmadinejad said. "Those two or three countries who harshly oppose us are wise enough not to commit such a big mistake. They would be damaged if they create any restrictions on us."