Iran Affirms Its Defiance On Nuclear Program

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 21, 2008

TEHRAN, Feb. 20 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran's determination to continue its nuclear program had brought major powers "to their knees."

In a speech broadcast live on state television, Ahmadinejad repeated his assertion that Iran would ignore demands by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that it suspend sensitive nuclear work or face new sanctions. The United Nations has already imposed two rounds of sanctions that limit international transactions by Iran's financial institutions, restrict travel by certain high-ranking officials and seek to curtail Iran's access to nuclear-related materials.

"The Iranian nation will not allow any power to trample even on its smallest right," Ahmadinejad said at a rally during a visit to the southern port city of Bandar Abbas. "They expected the Iranian nation to surrender after a resolution is issued or sanctions are imposed, but today it has brought all big powers to their knees." The speech drew chants of "Nuclear energy is our undisputed right!" from the crowd.

Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has long insisted it intends to produce nuclear energy for the peaceful purpose of generating electricity for its 65 million inhabitants.

The United States and European countries say they fear Iran's goal is to make nuclear weapons. Russia and China, two of Iran's important trading partners with seats on the Security Council, have tried to limit the scope of the resolutions intended to pressure the Tehran government. Russia is building a nuclear reactor at the port city of Bushehr.

Ahmadinejad said he expected that a forthcoming report by the International Atomic Energy Agency would declare that Iran's program is legal and that there "is no diversion" toward a weapons program.

The agency's assessment, expected Friday, is supposed to clarify outstanding issues between Iran and the IAEA. Its head, Mohamed ElBaradei, has cited "good progress" in the negotiations, which have been going on for more than five years. A final report could form the basis for additional Security Council action against Iran or lead to a resolution of the dispute.

The Iranian president also commented on the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah in the Syrian capital of Damascus last week. The Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia blamed Israel for the attack, an allegation Israel has denied.

Ahmadinejad, a frequent critic of Israel, said the Jewish state and its supporters "assassinated pure people," referring to "this brave son of Lebanon who stood up in the face of the Zionist regime's savage attack on Lebanon and broke the Zionist's horn."

The United States held Mughniyah responsible for bombing attacks in Beirut in the 1980s that killed hundreds of Americans, and Israel said he planned attacks on its embassy and a community center in Argentina that left more than 100 people dead.


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