Iran Rebuffs U.N., Vows to Speed Up Uranium Enrichment

By Nasser Karimi
Associated Press
Monday, December 25, 2006

TEHRAN, Iran, Dec. 24 -- Iran vowed Sunday to press ahead with uranium enrichment despite U.N. economic sanctions aimed at forcing a rollback in its nuclear program, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that the penalties would hurt the West more than his country.

The measures adopted unanimously Saturday by the 15-member U.N. Security Council were the first concrete steps taken against Iran for defying a U.N. demand that it rein in the nuclear program to allay suspicions it is trying to secretly develop atomic weapons.

Iranian analysts were more cautious about the impact that the sanctions might have on Iran's troubled economy, saying it could chase away foreign investment needed to create jobs. But Ahmadinejad predicted the United Nations would have to accept Iran's nuclear program.

"This will not damage the nation of Iran, but its issuers will soon regret this superficial and nil act," he told a group of veterans from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Addressing countries that voted for the sanctions, Ahmadinejad said the only impact of the sanctions would be "dissolving your reputation," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as telling the veterans gathered at the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said the resolution made his country more "decisive in realizing our nuclear aims." He said it would step up enrichment activities.

"From Sunday morning, we will begin activities at Natanz, the site of 3,000-centrifuge machines, and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution," Iran's Kayhan newspaper quoted Larijani as saying.

Oil-rich Iran insists its nuclear program is intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity. The United States and some of its allies suspect Iran's ultimate goal is to create atomic weapons in violation of Iran's treaty commitments.

The U.N. resolution orders all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also freezes the assets of 10 Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

If Iran refuses to comply, the council warned it would adopt further nonmilitary sanctions, but the resolution emphasized the importance of diplomacy in seeking guarantees "that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the Security Council vote would lead Iran to change the way it deals with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We are not obliged and it is not expected that cooperation with the IAEA continues" as it did in the past, Hosseini told reporters. He did not provide details about what would change.

Iran's parliament voted Sunday to urge Ahmadinejad's administration to revise its cooperation with the IAEA but did not set a timeline or provide further details. Many legislators chanted "Death to America" after the vote.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company