VIENNA, (Reuters) – Iran will ignore pressure to halt its atomic work, its president said on Friday, hours before the world’s nuclear watchdog was expected to confirm that Tehran has flouted U.N. Security Council demands.
“Those who want to prevent Iranians from obtaining their right, should know that we do not give a damn about such resolutions,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally in northwest Iran, the official IRNA news agency reported.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei was likely to report later in the day that Iran has refused to stop enriching uranium and is stalling IAEA inquiries, in defiance of demands set by the Security Council a month ago.
“Enemies think that by … threatening us, launching psychological warfare or … imposing embargos they can dissuade our nation from obtaining nuclear technology,” Ahmadinejad said.
He declared earlier this month that Iran had for the first time enriched uranium to a level suitable for use in power plants, was researching a machine to purify it even faster and planned to press ahead with industrial-scale fuel production.
This week Iran vowed to hit U.S. targets worldwide if attacked by Washington, which has not ruled out military options if diplomacy fails to halt what it says is Tehran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is purely civilian.
Iran’s U.N. envoy said on Thursday Tehran would not heed any Security Council resolution to rein in its nuclear work, on the grounds that this posed no threat to world peace and security.
“If the Security Council decides to take decisions that are not within its competence, then Iran does not feel obliged to obey,” Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif told reporters.
Diplomats anticipated no big surprises in the report.
“ElBaradei obviously will have to report that far from suspending enrichment, Iran is steaming ahead,” said one Western diplomat accredited to the Vienna-based IAEA.
Diplomats said questions persisted over Iranian research on advanced “P-2” centrifuges, documents on how to design an atomic bomb core, and intelligence reports of links between uranium ore processing, high-explosives tests and a missile warhead design.
Mark Fitzpatrick, nuclear analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said interest in ElBaradei’s report focused on how it assessed Iran’s claims to rapid progress toward mastering the enrichment process.
“Answers to such questions will be important in helping the world understand the degree of urgency of the crisis and scope for diplomacy. If the IAEA cannot say much about Iran’s progress, then policymakers will rely more on worst-case scenarios,” Fitzpatrick told Reuters.
The United States, backed by Britain and France, favours limited sanctions if Iran refuses to shelve enrichment quickly.
Russia and China, the Security Council’s other two veto-holding permanent members who want to protect lucrative stakes in Iran’s energy sector, have so far opposed such moves.
“To be credible, the Security Council of course has to act. It cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a (U.N.) member state,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington and its allies want to shift the demands made in a March 29 council statement into a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which would be legally binding.
Chinese and U.S. diplomats said the United States was trying to arrange a meeting on Iran of foreign ministers of the five permanent council members and Germany in New York on May 9.
Diplomats in Vienna said ElBaradei was vexed by Iran’s refusal to “pause” enrichment even for a limited time to ease tensions, its failure to keep promises to cooperate more with his agency, and by its growing brinkmanship with world powers.
But they said he was also unhappy about the council’s intervention and sanctions threats that some IAEA veterans fear could drive Iran out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran has invoked that prospect of late, threatening to freeze ties with the IAEA and questioning the value of staying in the NPT without a right to peaceful nuclear technology.
IAEA inspectors have found no hard proof that Iran has a military nuclear programme, but ElBaradei has said he still cannot say for sure that it is not conducting one in secret.