Iran Nuclear NewsIran vows no weakness over nuclear program

Iran vows no weakness over nuclear program

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Reuters: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday Iran should stand up to the world and pursue its nuclear program, after Tehran ignored a U.N. deadline to stop nuclear work which the West says will be used to make atom bombs. By Edmund Blair

TEHRAN (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday Iran should stand up to the world and pursue its nuclear program, after Tehran ignored a U.N. deadline to stop nuclear work which the West says will be used to make atom bombs.

The U.N. Security Council had given Iran until February 21 to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for power plants or material for warheads. The U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday Iran had not heeded the demand.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will meet in London next week to discuss possible further steps in addition to U.N. sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how that were imposed in December.

“If we show weakness in front of the enemy the expectations will increase but if we stand against them, because of this resistance, they will retreat,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech in northern Iran, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.

The president said in the past, that when Iran has compromised over a nuclear program it insists has only peaceful aims, the West had simply increased its demands.

Ahmadinejad is not the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, but his comments echo those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say and who has previously said Iran would press ahead with its nuclear ambitions.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the door remained open to Iran to talk with world powers over its nuclear program but that it was not fulfilling its obligations.

“On the one side the door for negotiations with Iran remains open but on the other side the new IAEA report shows that Iran is not meeting its obligations and therefore I think it is to be welcomed that the path will once again lead to the United Nations Security Council,” Merkel said at a joint news conference with French President Jacques Chirac.

“For us it would be preferable if one did not have to go to the Security Council again but that Iran would take this opportunity and simply from the various announcements of possible talks, finally take up (one of) the offers that we are making,” she said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said sanctions should be “deepened by being more precise, more detailed.”

ADDITIONAL PENALTIES

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Western threats over Iran’s nuclear row would not work.

“They will not get a result this way, it will just make problems for themselves, the world and especially our region,” he said in a Friday prayers sermon on state radio.

In the sermon, he also warned Iranians not to use language that would create more problems. “We should keep our unity. Extremist people should control their tongue because these days simple statements can also bring danger to the Islamic nation.”

His comments appeared a veiled reference to Ahmadinejad and his anti-Western speeches, which have been blamed by those in a more moderate camp of politicians, like Rafsanjani, for exacerbating Iran’s problems with suspicious Western nations.

Iran previously suspended uranium enrichment under an agreement with the European Union but this broke down in 2005. The president said earlier this week Iran would only halt its nuclear fuel work if those making such demands did too.

Additional penalties Iran might face for ignoring the U.N. demand include a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business.

“If they pass another resolution, Iran and its parliament and government will examine necessary issues and will react. But if the logical way of negotiations continues, we will also continue our cooperation with the IAEA,” Iran’s IAEA ambassador, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told Iranian state radio.

Analysts say harsher sanctions could face serious obstacles, as Russia, China and some EU powers prefer further dialogue with Iran to Washington’s push to isolate and punish.

The United States has stepped up pressure on Iran to stop by slapping U.S. sanctions on two big Iranian banks and three firms.

It has also deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf with supporting warships, a move widely seen as a warning to Iran. Washington insists it wants a diplomatic solution and does not want war, but has not ruled out force if necessary.

(Additional reporting by Berlin bureau)

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