TEHRAN (Reuters) – The Iranian president said on Wednesday Iran’s determination to continue its disputed nuclear work had brought major powers “to their knees.”
In a typically defiant speech as the International Atomic Energy Agency prepared to issue a report on Iran this week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would ignore calls by major powers to halt sensitive nuclear work that has led to two rounds of U.N. sanctions.
“The Iranian nation will not allow any power to trample even on its smallest (national) right,” he said in a televised speech to a rally in the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
As well as worrying the West, Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising speeches have stoked concerns among moderate politicians in Iran, an issue that has come to the fore before the March election for parliament. Critics say the president is pushing Iran into international isolation.
Former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who is running for a parliament seat, said in remarks published on Wednesday he had quit the post of negotiator over “differences on management mechanism” with Ahmadinejad. He did not elaborate.
The IAEA report is expected to be released this week. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said the agency has made “good progress” in resolving outstanding issues.
U.N. Security Council members are expected to scrutinize the details in his report before finalizing any new sanctions text, which is now being considered.
“The Iranian nation’s will to continue nuclear work has won over the will of big powers … (and) brought them to their knees,” the president said, to chants by those in the crowd of “Death to America” and “Nuclear energy is our obvious right.”
The final word in nuclear policy lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, under Iran’s system of clerical rule, but the leader has also said Iran will not stop atomic work.
“Today the agency, which is legally in charge of this case, has prepared a report and announced that Iran’s activities are legal and there is no diversion,” Ahmadinejad said.
“Big powers should respect the agency and its findings.”
The IAEA has been seeking answers to long-standing questions about Iran’s program, closing some of its files, under a deal with Iran reached last year, when Larijani was leading the Iranian nuclear negotiating team.
The United States is spearheading efforts to impose more sanctions in Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, the part of Iran’s program that most worries the West because it has civilian and, potentially, military uses.
Russia and China, commercial partners with Iran, have been resisting U.S. moves to toughen penalties.
Iran insists its work is entirely peaceful and only aimed at mastering technology to be used to generate electricity.
Larijani told the Financial Times that Iran had responded to the IAEA to show the country’s plans were peaceful. “We have finished answering all their … questions,” he said.