Thursday, February 02, 2006

Iran says it will resist 'bully' nations

USA Today:
Posted 2/1/2006 5:56 PM Updated 2/1/2006 5:57 PM TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's president lashed out Wednesday at the United States and vowed to resist the pressure of "bully countries" as European nations circulated a draft resolution urging that Tehran be brought before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities.

In a speech to thousands of supporters hours after President Bush's State of the Union address, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided the United States as a "hollow superpower" that is "tainted with the blood of nations" and said Tehran would continue its nuclear program.

"Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized," Ahmadinejad told the crowd in the southern Iran city of Bushehr, the site of Iran's only nuclear power plant.

"Our nation can't give in to the coercion of some bully countries who imagine they are the whole world and see themselves equal to the entire globe," he added.

The crowd responded with chants of "Nuclear energy is our right!"

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said at a news conference that the Islamic republic would halt intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities and resume large-scale enrichment of uranium if it is taken before the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Larijani also said Iran remains committed to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, despite calls from hard-line newspapers to withdraw from the agreement if the International Atomic Energy Agency reports Iran to the Security Council on Thursday, as expected.

Iran's main enrichment plant at Natanz "is ready for work," he said.

"We only need to notify the IAEA that we are resuming enrichment. When we do that is our call," Larijani said. If Iran is reported to the Security Council, we will do it quickly," he added.

Referring to the IAEA meeting, he added: "In case the issue is reported or referred to the Security Council, we will have to stop implementation of the Additional Protocol" — a procedure that allows IAEA inspectors to carry out intrusive searches of a country's nuclear facilities without warning.

"The result would be Iran's cooperating with the IAEA at a low level, which is against our wishes. All our suspensions on nuclear activities would be lifted," he said, meaning that Iran would feel free to enrich uranium without hindrance.

Iran insists its nuclear program is civilian only and has no other purpose than to generate power. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material needed to build a warhead.

In Vienna, a draft IAEA resolution requests agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei "to report to the Security Council" on steps Iran needs to take to dispel fears that it might want to make nuclear arms. It was being circulated among the 35-member IAEA board for comments before being submitted for approval at Thursday's board meeting, and a copy was made available to The Associated Press.

The development was a boost to Washington, the main proponent of bringing Iran before the Security Council.

The draft calls on Iran to:

• Re-establish a freeze on uranium enrichment and related activities.

• Consider whether to stop construction of a heavy water reactor that could be the source of plutonium for weapons.

• Formally ratify an agreement it has so far honored as if it were in force allowing the IAEA greater inspecting authority.

• Give the IAEA more power in its probe of Iran's nuclear program, including "access to individuals" for interviews, as well as to documentation on its black market nuclear purchases, equipment that could be used for nuclear and non-nuclear purposes and "certain military-owned workshops" where nuclear activities might be going on.

The draft also asks ElBaradei to "convey to the Security Council" his report to the next board session in March along with any resolution that meeting might approve.

"Iran's many failures of its obligations ... constitute non-compliance" with the non-proliferation treaty, the document said. Although the text is likely to undergo some changes before it is submitted for approval, the countries that authored the draft — Britain, France and Germany — were unlikely to agree to substantive modifications, according to a European diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential strategy on Iran.

Ahmadinejad referred to Bush directly and the U.S.-led war in neighboring Iraq.

"Those whose hands are tainted with blood of nations and are involved in wars and oppression in any part of the world ... we, hopefully, in the near future will put you on trial in courts that will be set up by nations."

Defense Minister Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar also warned all countries against considering an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. "Any attack against Iran's peaceful nuclear facilities will meet a swift and crushing response from the armed forces," Najjar said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

The comments came after Bush increased the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, saying in his address Tuesday night that "the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." He said the United States "will continue to rally the world to confront these threats."

Bush also said Iran was "held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people" and must stop sponsoring terrorists in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin spoke with Bush by telephone about Iran, the Kremlin said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons on Wednesday it was crucial for the international community to "send a signal of strength" to Iran in the dispute.

"It is important that they understand ... that we are united in determining that they should not be able to carry on flouting their international obligations," he said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council agreed Tuesday that Iran should be hauled before the powerful body.

The top U.N. body has the power to impose economic and political sanctions, but none of those measures is immediately likely. Under the deal agreed to by Moscow and Beijing, the Security Council will likely await a new IAEA report at the next board meeting in March before deciding on substantive action, leaving more time for talks with Iran.

On Tuesday, the IAEA said Iran obtained documents and drawings on the black market that serve no other purpose than to make an atomic warhead. The findings were contained in a confidential report for presentation to the IAEA board and provided in full to AP.

A three-year IAEA inquiry has not found firm evidence to back assertions by the United States and others that Iran's nuclear activities are a cover for an arms program but has not been able to dismiss such suspicions either.

First mention of the documents linked to constructing a nuclear warhead was made last year in a longer IAEA report. At that time, the agency said only that they showed how to cast "enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispherical forms."

In the brief report obtained Tuesday, however, the agency said bluntly the 15 pages of text and drawings showing how to cast fissile uranium into metal were "related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components."

The report said the documents were under agency seal, meaning that IAEA experts should be able to re-examine them, but Iran has declined to give the agency a copy.

Iran has claimed it did not ask for the documents but received them anyway as part of other black market purchases.


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