(photo credit: AP [file])
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned Western countries Sunday that their strategy of pressuring Iran to roll back its nuclear program by imposing sanctions will backfire.
Rafsanjani, who heads the influential Expediency Council, also told worshippers during a sermon that Iran was willing to work with international organizations to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program.
"The problems will not be limited to Iran. Many (countries) will suffer from the smoke from this fire," Rafsanjani told a crowd of thousands at Teheran University who gathered on the first day of the Id al-Adha for Iranian Shi'ite Muslims.
"(Pressure on Iran) will have important consequences that are not comparable with issues such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine," he said in the sermon broadcast live by Iranian state TV.
"If any party makes a mistake, it will not be easy to avoid its consequences," he said, adding that Iran will not halt its uranium enrichment under the pressure of sanctions.
But Rafsanjani appeared to declare his willingness to work with the UN nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to resolve Iran's differences over its nuclear program with the international community.
"We are ready to resolve the accusations with logic, negotiations and inspections. We are ready cooperate international bodies under their regulations," he said, in a more moderate stance than that taken by Iranian lawmakers December 27 when they voted to re-examine Iran's ties with the IAEA.
He did not give conditions for negotiating, but Western countries have required Iran to suspend enriching uranium as a requirement for holding talks - a condition Iran has rejected.
The United States and some of its Western allies contend that Iran is using its nuclear program as cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies the accusation.
Rafsanjani described the resolution to impose sanctions on Iran that was passed December 23 as dangerous, saying that although it was amended "it still has 15 dangerous and ominous points." He did not elaborate.
The UN Security Council on December 23 voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment - a process that produces the material for either nuclear reactors or bombs.
Modifications to the draft of the resolution ahead of the vote included removing one of several companies a list facing UN financial sanctions. A mandatory travel ban was replaced by a call to states "to exercise vigilance" regarding the entry or transit through their territory of the Iranians on the UN list.
Sunni Muslims began celebrating on Saturday Id al-Adha, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar.