Tehran: Iran on 27 February vowed never to yield to the key Western demand on its nuclear programme after world powers agreed to work on a new resolution that could lead to more UN sanctions against Tehran.
Amid speculation Washington may be planning military action to bring Tehran to heel, influential cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned Iran to be careful not to provoke the “wounded tiger” of the US.
Diplomats from six key world powers pledged in London on 26 February to work on a new UN Security Council resolution over Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment work, which the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki retorted: “One thing that is not feasible is the Iranian nation backing down on having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.”
He warned Iran would not repeat the temporary suspension of enrichment agreed in 2004 as part of a deal with the European Union, saying Iran had received nothing in return.
Following the London meeting, representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany agreed to convene again on 1 March to discuss how to agree on a consensus for a new resolution.
Ahead of the next meeting, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said any sign of weakness with Iran would be “fatal”, insisting that only tough action from the international community would achieve results.
“The tougher we are in insisting that Iran comply and in being prepared to take tough measures on sanctions and diplomatic action if they don’t, then the more likely we are to get the results we want,” Blair told reporters.“Any sign of weakness is absolutely fatal,” he said.
The Security Council agreed in December to impose its first sanctions against Iran, targeting the nuclear industry and its ballistics programme. Further sanctions could have wider implications for the Iranian economy.However China, which along with Russia has been wary of further punitive action against Tehran, refused to say if it would back new sanctions.
“Our position has been consistent in that we advocate a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiation and peaceful means,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters. “Sanctions are not our ultimate purpose.”
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said it was now “highly likely” the permanent members of the Security Council could soon agree a new resolution ordering sanctions against Iran.While Washington insists it wants to end the standoff diplomatically, the US has never ruled out using military action against Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran’s ambassador to Moscow warned that the Islamic republic would strike the US “anywhere” if attacked, adding, however, Tehran was ready to consider direct talks with Washington, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
“If the Americans do something foolish and attack Iran we will be able to give a worthy, adequate response. We also do not limit the territory for such a response. It could be anywhere,” Gholamreza Ansari said.
Tehran denies US and Israeli charges of seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.
Former president Rafsanjani warned Iran to be wary of provoking the US, comparing the Islamic republic’s arch-foe to a “wounded tiger”.
“The Americans brought their troops with high spending to Iraq and Afghanistan. The only thing they did was to remove Iran’s enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban,” said Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997.“They are angry. So we must be more alert. They are like a wounded tiger and we must not ignore this,” he said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 25 February compared the Iranian nuclear programme to a train without brakes or reverse gear, a comment that drew a reaction of mounting exasperation from US officials.The increasingly sharp rhetoric between the West and Iran helped drive oil prices higher. In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude for April delivery climbed nine cents on 27 February to $61.42 per barrel in electronic trading.