TEHRAN,(Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday Iran should not show weakness over its nuclear programme, after Tehran ignored a U.N. deadline to stop nuclear work which the West says will be used to make atom bombs.
The U.N. Security Council had given Iran until Feb. 21 to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for power plants or material for warheads.
The U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday Iran had not heeded the demand.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will meet in London next week to discuss possible further steps in addition to U.N. sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how that were imposed in December. “If we show weakness in front of the enemy the expectations will increase but if we stand against them, because of this resistance, they will retreat,” he said in a speech in northern Iran, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.
The president said in the past, that when Iran has compromised over a nuclear programme it insists has only peaceful aims, the West had simply increased its demands.
Ahmadinejad is not the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, but his comments echo those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say and who has previously said Iran would press ahead with its nuclear ambitions.
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Western threats over Iran’s nuclear row would not work. “They will not get a result this way, it will just make problems for themselves, the world and especially our region,” he said in a Friday prayers sermon on state radio.
In the sermon, he also warned Iranians not to use language that would create more problems. “We should keep our unity. Extremist people should control their tongue because these days simple statements can also bring danger to the Islamic nation.” His comments appeared a veiled reference to Ahmadinejad and his anti-Western speeches, which have been blamed by those in a more moderate camp of politicians, like Rafsanjani, for exacerbating Iran’s problems with suspicious Western nations.
Iran previously suspended uranium enrichment under an agreement with the European Union but this broke down in 2005. The president said earlier this week Iran would only halt its nuclear fuel work if those making such demands did too.
Additional penalties Iran might face for ignoring the U.N. demand include a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business. “If they pass another resolution, Iran and its parliament and government will examine necessary issues and will react. But if the logical way of negotiations continues, we will also continue our cooperation with the IAEA,” Iran’s IAEA ambassador,
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told Iranian state radio.
Analysts say harsher sanctions could face serious obstacles, as Russia, China and some EU powers prefer further dialogue with Iran to Washington’s push to isolate and punish.
The United States has stepped up pressure on Iran to stop by slapping U.S. sanctions on two big Iranian banks and three firms. It has also deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf with supporting warships, a move widely seen as a warning to Iran. Washington insists it wants a diplomatic solution and does not want war, but has not ruled out force if necessary.