AFP: Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed never to give up his country’s disputed nuclear drive as Western powers pushed for tough Security Council action against the Islamic republic. TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed never to give up his country’s disputed nuclear drive as Western powers pushed for tough Security Council action against the Islamic republic.
In a further show of defiance, a top Iranian nuclear official declared the country’s scientists were working on highly advanced centrifuge designs to enrich uranium — work that is at the centre of fears Tehran may acquire the bomb.
“The Islamic republic will not negotiate with anyone on its absolute right to use peaceful nuclear technology. This is our red line, and we will never give it up,” the president said in a statement.
On Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran had not complied with a UN Security Council demand to freeze enrichment — which can be used to make fuel for civilian nuclear reactors, but can also serve as the explosive core of atom bombs.
Iran insists its programme is peaceful.
The report clears the way for a new phase of diplomacy, with the United States and Europe poised to seek a Security Council resolution legally obliging Iran to meet IAEA and Council demands.
If Iran still refuses, such a resolution could pave the way to economic sanctions and even military action, although Tehran’s major trading partners, Russia and China — which have a veto on the Council — oppose any such move.
Russia warned Iran Saturday that Moscow expected “concrete steps” from Tehran to reestablish confidence over the nuclear issue, in a telephone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.
“The Russian side again stressed the importance of Iran’s taking concrete steps to restore the international community’s confidence regarding its nuclear activities”, a statement from the Russian foreign ministry said.
Meanwhile the European Commission’s foreign policy chief appealed for a “diplomatic solution” to the dispute.
“We are still searching for a diplomatic solution. The Security Council is now called on to act,” Solanan said in an interview due to be published Sunday in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
Foreign ministers of the five permanent Council members and Germany plan to gather in New York on May 9 to discuss the crisis. Representatives of these countries are also due to meet in Paris Tuesday ahead of the talks.
As early as next week the western powers are expected to present to the UN body a resolution that would legally require Tehran to cease uranium enrichment work.
US President George W. Bush has branded Iran’s nuclear ambitions “dangerous” but insisted that Washington wanted to resolve the dispute “diplomatically and peacefully”.
But Ahmadinejad called on Western powers to allow the IAEA — and not the UN Security Council — to deal with the case.
“As a nuclear country, the Islamic republic is ready to discuss, alongside other nuclear powers and with all countries, how to assure world peace,” he said.
There is no talk of immediately imposing sanctions on Iran, but Washington, Paris and London are in agreement on passing a legally binding resolution, invoking Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter
This chapter can open the door to economic sanctions and, as a last resort, to military action.
Israeli prime minister designate Ehud Olmert said it was “everyone’s duty to prevent Iran from getting access to non-conventional weapons.”
His comments were made in an interview published in a German newspaper in which he compared Ahmedinejad to Hitler for his aggressive rhetoric towards Israel.
The vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saidi, on Saturday said Iran was working on highly advanced centrifuge designs for enrichment.
“When it comes to which type we will use, we are still examining this. It isn’t the P-2 (centrifuge) — there are other devices that are more advanced and that are a part of our work,” he told state television.
Iran announced earlier this month that it had successfully enriched uranium to reactor-grade levels using less advanced P-1 centrifuges.