By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 4:42 PM
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday that Tehran will pursue nuclear activities outside international regulations if the U.N. Security Council insists it stop uranium enrichment. "Until today, what we have done has been in accordance with international regulations," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. "But if they take illegal actions, we too can take illegal actions and will do so."
Khamenei did not elaborate on what "illegal actions" could be pursued by Tehran, which faces new Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt enrichment.
Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty _ the agreement under which U.N. inspections are held.
Khamenei warned the United States that Iran will "use all its capacities to strike" if his country is attacked.
"If they want to treat us with threats and enforcement of coercion and violence, undoubtedly they must know that the Iranian nation and authorities will use all their capacities to strike enemies that attack," Khamenei told the nation in an address marking the first day of Nowruz, or the Persian New Year.
Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council _ the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France _ have drawn up new sanctions to punish Iran for rejecting U.N. demands to halt enrichment _ a process that can produce fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a nuclear warhead.
The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of intending to build nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is purely for generating electricity.
Ambassadors from the 15 Security Council nations held informal discussions at Britain's U.N. Mission in New York ahead of a meeting to discuss possible changes to the draft sanctions resolution.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, said his country "will not support excessive sanctions against Iran," and added that the draft resolution has been softened at Moscow's behest.
The sanctions in the draft resolution would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in the country's nuclear and missile programs _ about a third linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.
The package also calls for voluntary restrictions on travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, on arms sales to Iran, and on new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.
Lavrov said broader restrictions on officials' travel, and a ban on "credits" to Iran, had been softened on Russia's advice. He did not specify what type of credits he was discussing.
"We ... have agreed to influence Iran by gradually applying proportionate pressure," Lavrov said.
European and U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks said Tuesday that Moscow had bluntly told Tehran it would not ship fuel for the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran until Tehran freezes its uranium enrichment program.
Lavrov denied that.
"It's not the first time that we are seeing such an unscrupulous approach aimed at driving a wedge between us and Iran," he told lawmakers in the lower house of parliament. "There is no link whatsoever between the U.N. resolution ... and the implementation of the Bushehr project."
Russia has said plans to supply fuel for Bushehr this month were called off because of Iranian payment delays that prompted Moscow to indefinitely postpone the reactor's September launch. Russian officials also said that the number of workers at Bushehr had dwindled due to the funding shortage.
Iran angrily denied falling behind in payments and accused Russia of caving in to U.S. pressure to take a tougher line on Tehran.
Iranian state television on Tuesday described Russia as an "unreliable partner," adding: "It is clear that Russia has stopped construction of this plant under pressure and for political reasons."
Associated Press Writer Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.