(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran on Friday called UN sanctions invalid and warned its enemies to expect a tidal wave of resistance if they increase pressure on Teheran to freeze uranium enrichment.
The comments from Teheran and Vienna, at the end of a two-day meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35 nation board in the Austrian capital, reflected the chasm between the views of Iran and the West on what Teheran has to do to escape further UN punishment.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Security Council resolutions demanding a stop to enrichment have "no legal basis." And he accused Washington of making a political issue of what he maintained was a program only meant to produce electricity by falsely warning of the "threat of Iran's plutonium nuclear weapon."
"Allegations ... (of) Iran's clandestine and non-peaceful activities are now proved to be baseless," he said.
The two-day IAEA meeting focused on a report from agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei outlining the progress of an investigation of past suspicious Iranian nuclear activities.
The report gives Teheran mixed marks. It suggests that as far as the agency can determine, Iran has told the truth about black market purchases of centrifuge technology used to enrich uranium.
The Islamic Republic asserts it is fully cooperating with an IAEA investigation, and says once that is finished Iran will have met all obligations regarding its nuclear program.
In Teheran, meanwhile, Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari, head of the Iran's Revolutionary Guards, warned against increasing pressure on his country, in comments obliquely directed toward Washington.
"The ocean of the Iranian nation may sometimes look calm but if it becomes stormy it will create tsunamis," Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari said. "Enemies should know that if the Iranian nation appears patient with their plots and pressures, this is just the calm before storm," he said, adding that the country was "ready to respond to all enemy plots."
The United States has said it is pursuing diplomatic options with Teheran for now, but has not ruled out military action as a way to halt the country's nuclear program, which it claims is a cover for developing weapons. Iran says it seeks only to generate nuclear power.
Iran is running 3,000 declared centrifuges _ sufficient to produce enough material for a nuclear warhead within 1Â½ years if Teheran chose to.
The new report points out the IAEA will be unable to assess the present state of Iran's centrifuge development unless the Iranians restore fuller inspection rights to UN experts and says it cannot draw a definite conclusion on whether some activities had possible military aspects.
Although Iran insists it is fully cooperating with the investigation, the United States and key European nations as well as Canada, Australia and Japan contend Iran's cooperation has been spotty and insist it must obey a Security Council order to suspend enrichment.
On Thursday, the chief US delegate, Gregory L. Schulte, charged that Iran was just repeating past foot-dragging.
Noting that the IAEA's latest report says the agency "knows less and less" about Teheran's nuclear activities ... including whether or not it is for exclusively peaceful purposes," Schulte accused Iran of using delay tactics in hopes of staving off new sanctions.
To reporters, he said Iran continues "to move forward in violation of Security Council resolutions with the pursuit of technologies that can be used to build nuclear weapons." He said the council should impose further sanctions unless Iran fulfills all obligations.
Separately, Britain, France and Germany expressed concern about a recent IAEA conclusion that Iran purchased black market nuclear technology meant for Libya's military nuclear program. "This does not help reassure us," their statement said.
"We cannot accept that the knowledge of the agency in Iran is diminishing," said the statement, read by chief French delegate Francois-Xavier Deniau. "We cannot ... (accept) that Iran refuses to bend to the demands of the council and that it violates the resolutions of the Security Council."
Continued Iranian defiance means the world "has to draw conclusions at the Security Council level," the statement added, alluding to further sanctions.
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