(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued threatening Western countries Thursday for referring his country to the United Nation Security Council.
"The countries of the West are vulnerable and they will suffer more than we will if they try to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capability," he said during a speech in Iran.
Meanwhile, Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman expressed optimism Thursday morning that the Security Council could prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons program.
"The Security Council has proven in the last several months that it can be very effective," Gillerman said in an interview with Army Radio. "We saw this in the decision to compel Syrian forces to leave Lebanon and in the investigation into the death of [former Lebanese prime minister Rafik] Hariri. If it acts with the same resolve regarding Iran, I believe it can make clear to Iran that she stands on the brink of isolation and joining the international club of pariahs, and maybe this will bring about a change in their tough stance.
Gillerman also addressed Russian and Chinese opposition to imposing sanctions on Iran.
"I believe that most of the international community understands the clear and present danger that Iran represents, not just to Israel, but to the entire world. We are witnesses to the creation of a new terror pipeline connecting Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. The declarations emanating from Iran speak for themselves - declarations to destroy Israel, Holocaust denial, and preparing the next Holocaust."
Russia's top diplomat criticized efforts to bring Iran and its disputed nuclear program before the Security Council, suggesting that the United States was too eager to take the issue out of the hands of the world body's nuclear watchdog.
In an interview broadcast Thursday on Russian state television, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Iran's referral to the Security Council an attempt to portray the International Atomic Energy Agency as unable to influence Tehran.
"This move is detrimental, and not one real problem can be decided with such a move," he said.
"We don't want to be the ones to remind (everyone) who was right and who was not in Iraq, although the answer is obvious," he said.
Russia has veto power that could stop passage of a sanctions resolution.
Gillerman also addressed the option of a military attack on Iran.
"The president of Iran is trying to shift his country's fight against the international community towards a fight against Israel. We don't need to play into his hands. We shouldn't declare Israel's intentions - not diplomatic or any other."
Israel welcomed the International Atomic Energy
Agency's decision Wednesday to finally send the Iranian nuclear dossier to the Security Council, but said that this was just the first step in a long journey to use diplomatic pressure to stop Iran's march toward the A-bomb.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke after the meeting with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain, thanked them for their efforts in getting the issue moved to the Security Council, and said that only a united international front would lead to significant results in the Security Council.
Just before the decision was made, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Post that Israel was "very active on this issue, but we are active at the right volumeâ€¦We need to act wisely on this. We are making the right efforts with the international community, with the US, with the European countries to get to a situation whereby the UN will effectively be monitoring what Iran is doing."
One Israeli official said that even though real sanctions could still be a long way down the road, Wednesday's decision was important because it put an end to Iran's efforts to get agreement for it to retain nuclear research and development potential on its soil. Israeli officials were worried that a Russian compromise to enrich the uranium for Iran would still leave the Iranians with R&D potential.
The official, however, was still cautious, saying that not all member countries in the Security Council wanted to see the issue advance, and that there was still a "substantial gap" between Iran's technological advances on the ground, and the international community's diplomatic efforts to stop them.
According to the official, a formal statement on the matter from the president of the Security Council was now expected within a few days that would call upon Iran to comply with IAEA demands to suspend its uranium enrichment. He said that this was the formal first step, and would not likely mention sanctions. Then, he said, the process would move forward depending on how the Iranians would react.
The US State Department's top political official predicted Wednesday that the Security Council would begin the debate on Monday or Tuesday.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns also said there is almost unanimous international agreement that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, although Teheran says it wants nuclear capabilities only for energy production.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said the report would be sent to the council no later than Thursday.
"We believe that next Monday or Tuesday the United Nations Security Council will begin a very active debate about Iran's nuclear ambitions," said Burns, undersecretary for political affairs.
"That debate will be designed to shine a very large, intensive spotlight on what we believe to be a clear Iranian (weapons) program," he said.
Speaking at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee, Burns said US officials expect the Security Council to consider a statement of condemnation from the council president against Iran. He said, however, the Bush administration would like to go "beyond that to entertain the possibility of a resolution to isolate and hopefully influence (Iran's) behavior."
If Iran doesn't respond to words and resolutions, "then we believe that the world community should entertain the possibility of sanctions against Iran," Burns said.
"It's going to be incumbent upon our allies around the world and interested countries to show they are willing to act, should the words and resolutions of the United Nations not suffice," he said.