Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Iranian leader remains defiant over nuclear program

March 10, 2006


— Iran's hard-line president on Thursday warned the West will suffer more than his country if it tries to stop Tehran's nuclear ambitions, vowing to press ahead with the program as the confrontation moved into the U.N. Security Council.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments came as Tehran struck an increasingly threatening tone, with the top Iranian delegate to the U.N. atomic watchdog agency warning a day earlier that the United States will face "harm and pain" if the Security Council becomes involved.

"They know that they are not capable of causing the least harm to Iranian people," Ahmadinejad said during a visit to Iran's western province of Lorestan, according to the ISNA news agency. "They will suffer more."

Ahmadinejad did not elaborate. Some diplomats saw the comments as a veiled threat to use oil as a weapon, though Iran's oil minister ruled out any decrease in production. Iran also has leverage with extremist groups in the Middle East that could harm U.S. interests.

The move to the U.N. Security Council takes the standoff to a new level, but how much it escalates depends heavily on the council's first steps.

The five permanent members with veto power - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - debated on Thursday how tough an action to take over Iran's nuclear program, which Washington says aims to produce atomic weapons. Iran denies that claim, saying it intends only to generate electricity.

The council could consider sanctions, but that seemed unlikely due to opposition by Russia and China. Instead, the first response likely will be a nonbinding presidential statement.

Britain has proposed that the statement ask International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report back in two weeks on Iran's compliance with IAEA resolutions.

The toughest talk so far has come from Washington, where Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said the United States wants the statement to include some condemnation of Iran.

He said the U.S. eventually may seek a so-called Chapter 7 resolution, which can be enforced with military action.

Burns suggested Wednesday that Washington also would urge its allies to move beyond the Security Council and impose targeted sanctions against Iran if it doesn't clear up the doubts surrounding its nuclear program.

Iran has threatened in the past to end negotiations with Russia over a compromise proposal and restart full uranium enrichment - a key step in the nuclear process that the West is trying to persuade it to give up - if it is referred to the Security Council.


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