Iran brushes off new sanctions threat in atom row

TEHRAN (AP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday shrugged off the West’s criticism of Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme and said that eventual new UN sanctions would not harm Iran.Speaking to a crowd of several thousand supporters in the city of Semnan, 235 kilometres southeast of Tehran during a two-day provincial trip, the Iranian leader stuck to his belligerent rhetoric.

“This nation will punch its intimidators in the mouth,” said Ahmadinejad, in a reference to US-led group of Western nations that have chastised Iran over its uranium enrichment. His speech was broadcast live on state television.

“You — the West — have to know that your resolutions will not be worth a red cent for the Iranian nation,” added Ahmadinejad.

The UN Security Council is preparing to debate a third set of sanctions against the Islamic republic in response to Tehran’s continuing refusal to suspend the enrichment, which can produce fuel for civilian energy or fissile material for a bomb.

Referring to two previous rounds of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, Ahmadinejad said they had no negative impact on his country and reiterated that Iran would not give in its right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology under any circumstance.

The prospect of a third set of sanctions appeared more likely after senior Iranian envoy abruptly cancelled talks Monday with the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, dashing hopes that the country is ready to end its secrecy about past suspicious nuclear activities.

In a report last month, the UN watchdog provided the potential trigger for new UN sanctions, saying Iran continued to defy the Security Council and was instead expanding its enrichment activities. Tehran insists it wants to develop an enrichment programme to generate energy but there are fears it could misuse it to produce the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

The report was also critical of Iran’s refusal to answer questions about nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activities that first came to light four years ago.

Iran says it is ready to remove the ambiguities related to its nuclear activities through negotiations, but rejects suspension of enrichment, a condition set by the West for resumption of talks on the case.

But in contrast to Ahmadinejad, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday the nuclear dispute requires a “logical solution”.  “The necessity of choosing a logical solution becomes stronger, day by day,” Mottaki was quoted as saying by official IRNA news agency after meeting ambassadors of Arab countries in Tehran.

In an overture to the international community, Mottaki proposed that an international “consortium” on enrichment be set up.

The idea first came from Ahmadinejad, who proposed a multunational consortium on enrichment in Iran when he attended the UN General Assembly in 2005.

“A consortium for enrichment of uranium in Iran can be an effective help for increasing trust. It will redirect negotiations on non-divergence” of Iran’s nuclear programme towards nuclear weaponry, Mottaki added.

The Security Council first imposed sanctions on Iran in December and modestly increased them in March over Iran’s refusal to suspend enrichment. Iran says it is within its rights to pursue uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes.

The United States and some of its allies fear that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapon activities under cover of the programme. Iran denies the charge and says it is aiming at peaceful purposes.

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