Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday defied Western threats to impose more sanctions over Iran's contested nuclear program, comparing its atomic drive to a "train with no brakes."
Ahmadinejad's declaration came a day before the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany are to meet to discuss the possiblity of more punitive measures against Tehran.
"Iran has reached the technology to produce nuclear fuel and Iran's movement on this path is like a train on a one-way track with no room for stopping, reverse gear or braking," the president told a gathering of religious leaders.
"A while ago, we threw away the reverse gear and the brakes of the train and we announced to them that this Iranian train has no reverse gear or braking," the ISNA and Fars news agencies quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
The UN Security Council in December imposed limited sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.
A report by the UN atomic watchdog has confirmed that Iran is still continuing with uranium enrichment work in defiance of the UN Security Council, opening the way towards possible further sanctions.
The US has never ruled out the prospect of military action to halt Iran's nuclear program and US Vice President Dick Cheney reignited such speculation by saying that "all options are still on the table."
The US and Israel accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charges, insisting its atomic program is peaceful.
"We have prepared ourselves for any situation, even if war happens," Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi told the ISNA news agency.
He added that Iran was prepared for talks with the US but without preconditions. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has insisted she would only hold talks if Tehran first agreed to a suspension of enrichment.
"We have had unofficial meetings with Americans over Afghanistan and Iraq, but they say first Iran should accept US conditions and then the talks take place," Mohammadi said.
Ahmadinejad shrugged off the impact of a resolution against Iran, saying such a move would neither hurt the Islamic republic economically nor affect the progress of the nuclear program.
Meanwhile, in a move likely to increase tensions, Iran said yesterday it had launched its first rocket into space.
"The first space rocket has been successfully launched into space," a state television anchor announced, without disclosing its range or the date of the launch.
"The rocket was carrying material intended for research created by the ministries of science and defence," Mohsen Bahrami, the head of Iran's aerospace research centre, told state television.
He did not give further details on the nature of the cargo. State television has yet to broadcast pictures of the launch.
The launch appears to be the first major step towards Iran's stated ambition of putting homemade satellites into space.
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