Iran Nuclear NewsIran defies call to drop nuclear plans

Iran defies call to drop nuclear plans

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New York Times: The Iranian leadership is vowing to continue to defy an international demand to stop nuclear activities while refusing to condemn North Korea for its reported test of a small nuclear device. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: October 13, 2006

TEHRAN, Oct. 12 — The Iranian leadership is vowing to continue to defy an international demand to stop nuclear activities while refusing to condemn North Korea for its reported test of a small nuclear device.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a speech on Tuesday that Iran would continue its uranium enrichment program, asserting, as other senior Iranian leaders have done, that the program was intended for peaceful civilian purposes.

He said the decision was made easier by the fact that Iran voluntarily suspended enrichment three years ago, a cooperative gesture that proved fruitless. “If we had not experienced that path, perhaps we would have criticized ourselves today,” he said. “But now we will pursue with a strong heart.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech on Tuesday that Iran would “continue its path of dignity based on resistance, wisdom and without fear.”

The government spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, while saying that “Iran opposes any use of weapons of mass destruction,” nevertheless blamed the United States for the nuclear test that North Korea said it conducted Monday. “The root cause of this should be sought in the policy, behavior and method adopted by the rulers of the United States,” he said Tuesday in his weekly news conference.

It appeared that Iran was emboldened by North Korea’s action, and what seemed to be light penalties proposed Wednesday in the United Nations Security Council. Iran and North Korea face possible Security Council sanctions over nuclear activities.

“It looks like the message of North Korea’s test for Iran was that it can also continue its program,” said Saeed Leylaz, an economist and political analyst in Tehran. “They felt that if they act forcefully and confrontationally, they can also proceed with their program like North Korea.”

Iran, unlike North Korea, contends that its program is for civilian purposes, and Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly spoken out against nuclear weapons. Although Iran’s facilities are visited by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United States contends that Tehran is using its civilian nuclear activities as a cover for a nuclear weapons program.

In an editorial on Tuesday, Kargozaran, a moderate daily newspaper, said North Korea could proceed with its program because it had China as its ally.

“The international community was less tough with North Korea, which has a nuclear bomb, than with Iran, which does not have a nuclear bomb,” the newspaper said.

Iranians were mixed about whether Iran should continue with its nuclear program.

Some said they felt strongly that their country should pursue nuclear weapons, and dismissed efforts by the United States to halt proliferation. “A country that has nuclear bombs has no right to tell other countries that they should not have one,” said Javad Tabatabai, a retired schoolteacher, as he browsed at a newsstand in north Tehran. “We are a superpower in the region, and no one will dare to stop our program.”

Others said just as strongly that Iran should give up the quest. “People are hungry,” said Armin Manouchehri, a 33-year-old mechanic. “Why do we need a nuclear program when the government is not capable of controlling the inflation?” Inflation is running in double digits in Iran, with items like bread and fuel rising even more.

Some people said they feared that the Security Council might be even tougher on Iran now. “North Korea’s tests will make the West more sensitive toward Iran because Iran is in a more sensitive place in the Middle East than North Korea,” said Fazlali Mahmoudi, 80, a pharmacist. “I am afraid that our leaders’ policies would drag the country to the brink of war.”

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