TEHRAN, Iran, AP -Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Iran will cease cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency if the U.N. Security Council slaps sanctions on the country.
The statements by Ali Larijani came a day after Iran’s president — facing a U.N. deadline on Friday to stop enriching uranium — predicted the Security Council would not impose sanctions on Tehran and warned he was thinking about dropping out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
On Tuesday, Larijani, speaking to an international conference on Iran’s energy program, said flatly that if the Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran, the country would suspend its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees compliance with the nonproliferation treaty.
The Western countries on the IAEA board “have to understand they cannot resolve this issue through force,” he said.
Iran’s former President, Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking at the same conference, claimed that Iran openly launched its nuclear program — which Iran insists is for peaceful energy purposes only — “but the behavior of Western countries forced it to carry out its nuclear program independently, based on local expertise and knowledge without relying on Western countries.”
The United States, Britain and France maintain that Iran actually wants enriched uranium for atomic bombs, which would violate its commitments under the treaty. Iran denies the charge, but Washington is pressing fellow members of the Security Council to impose economic sanctions.
An Israeli defense official said that Israel was launching a satellite to spy on Iran’s program, as Iran’s leader persisted with his calls for the Jewish state’s destruction.
Israel planned to launch from Siberia later Tuesday its Eros B satellite, designed to spot images on the ground as small as 27 inches, the defense official said. That level of resolution would allow Israel to gather information on Iran’s nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive subject matter.
The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists the nonproliferation treaty gives Iran the right to enrich uranium for fueling civilian nuclear power plants, and he has given no ground in the international faceoff.
The fiery Ahmadinejad said Monday he was reconsidering Iran’s adherence to the nonproliferation treaty, which is aimed at stopping the spread of atomic weapons while allowing peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
“What has more than 30 years of membership in the agency given us?” he asked at the news conference, which was only the second since he took office last year at which foreign journalists have been allowed to ask questions.
Suspicions about Iran’s intentions have grown since it was discovered in 2002 that the Tehran regime had for two decades secretly operated large-scale nuclear activities that could be used in weapons making.
The IAEA says it has since found no direct evidence of an arms program, but it also says the Iranians have not been fully forthcoming in answering questions about their nuclear activities.
After repeated attempts to resolve the issue through negotiations, the IAEA reported Iran to the Security Council for noncompliance. The council then gave Iran until Friday to suspend uranium enrichment.
Iran deepened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had for the first time enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges — a step toward large-scale production of nuclear fuel.
The United States and others are urging the Security Council to take a tougher stance by imposing a mandatory order for Iran to halt enrichment, a move that would raise the threat of sanctions.
Russian and China, which are among the five permanent members that can veto council actions, have opposed that approach, saying diplomacy has not run its course. Ahmadinejad appears to be banking on their support to dissuade Washington from pressing a sanctions vote.