TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that God would punish Iranians if they do not support the country’s disputed nuclear program, state radio reported.
“The Iranian people openly announce that they will defend their rights… God will reprimand them if they do not do so,” state radio quoted Khamenei as saying.
The 68-year-old ayatollah, who has final say on all state matters, said Washington’s claim that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon is false. The Iranian government has long insisted its nuclear activities are only for peaceful generation of fuel.
“They know that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, and they are just trying to block the Iranian nation from achieving advanced technology,” Khamenei was quoted as saying in Tehran.
The U.S. has led the push for a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or material for an atomic bomb.
Last month, the five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — agreed on a draft resolution for new sanctions.
Iran insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.
Iranian officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.