TEHRAN (Reuters) -Iran said on Monday a U.S. threat to form an independent coalition to impose sanctions if the U.N. Security Council failed to act over Tehran’s nuclear program was an insult to the council’s work.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, had indicated Washington was prepared to act independently with allies to freeze Iranian assets and restrict trade if the council did not.
The United States has previously called for a swift response if Iran does not heed the Security Council’s Thursday deadline to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for reactors or material for warheads.
“These remarks (by Bolton) are an obvious insult to the Security Council,” Iranian government Gholamhossein Elham told a weekly news conference.
“These remarks are just bullying and baseless remarks and show that they (the U.S.) are not competent to be a member of the Security Council.”
The LA Times said Washington planned to introduce a resolution imposing penalties soon after the August 31 deadline if Iran’s position did not change.
Analysts say opposition from veto-wielding powers Russia and China could delay any move.
Iran has so far shown no sign it will halt enrichment, which the West says Iran is using to build atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
“The Islamic Republic has repeatedly announced that using nuclear weapons is not in our defense policies,” Elham said.
SHRUGGING OFF THREATS
Bolton said Washington was working on a parallel diplomatic track outside the United Nations if Russia and China did not accept the resolution, the LA Times reported.
“You don’t need Security Council authority to impose sanctions, just as we have,” Bolton was quoted as saying.
The United States has had broad restrictions on almost all trade with Iran since 1987.
French President Jacques Chirac urged Iran to reassure the world about its intentions.
“Once again, I urge Tehran to send the necessary signals to create the conditions for trust. There is always room for dialogue,” Chirac said in a speech on Monday.
Iran has said it is ready for immediate talks but has refused to suspend enrichment before negotiations start, which was proposed in an incentives offer made by the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.
Iran has shrugged off the threat of sanctions, saying such a move would push already high oil prices higher still, hurting economies in industrialized countries more than Iran.
Iran says it will press ahead with its atomic plans which it says are to produce electricity. It inaugurated a heavy-water production unit southwest of the capital on Sunday, which Western diplomats said was not a proliferation threat itself but was part of project that could eventually have military uses.
Crude oil prices remain near record highs partly because of market fears that supply from Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, could be disrupted if the nuclear dispute worsens.
Iran said it fired a missile on Sunday from a submarine in the Gulf as part of wargames which analysts view as a signal that Iran could disrupt oil shipping in the area.