Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared yesterday that "the time for bullying" his country was over, the day after the Islamic republic was reported to the UN Security Council over its disputed nuclear program.
"The time for bullying is over," the hardline president said in a speech in the western province of Lorestan, according to the official IRNA news agency.
"Some powers think ... they can force the Iranian people to retreat. But all the Iranian nation, young or old, urban dweller or villager, farmer or factory worker are all saying one thing: Nuclear energy is our undeniable right," he said.
"The Iranian people are not bullies and will not be bullied," Ahmadinejad said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, on Wednesday opened the way for Security Council action against Iran, which is suspected of using an atomic energy drive as a mask for weapons development.
Envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- the five veto-wielding, permanent members of the Council -- have privately discussed the issue and a diplomat said they could formally take up the case within the next week.
Most diplomats agree the 15-nation council would issue a statement urging Iran to comply with resolutions taken by the 35-member board of the IAEA.
In Vienna, the IAEA board ended a meeting on Iran's nuclear program that opened the way for Security Council action. IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei then sent a Feb. 27 report on Iran to council members.
But Russia seemed to rule out tough council measures. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions against Iran would be ineffective and military action was not a solution.
"I don't think sanctions as a means to solve a crisis have ever achieved a goal in the recent history," Lavrov told reporters after meeting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Russia is generally opposed to using Security Council mandates to punish Iraq.
"We should all strive for a solution which would not endanger the ability of the IAEA to continue its work in Iran, while of course making sure that there is no danger for the nonproliferation regime," Lavrov said.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (
China is known to oppose sanctions.
Germany, Britain and France, the European negotiators with Iran, agree that diplomacy is not finished. But in a statement in Vienna they made clear that Iran's lack of cooperation with the IAEA "has made Security Council action inevitable."
Britain suggested the council should ask for a report from the IAEA within 14 days on whether Iran had made any progress in complying with its requests, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
IAEA demands include that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities, which Western nations fear is a cover for bomb-making.
But Russia's UN Ambassador Andrei Denisov said 14 days was too short and warned that the controversy should not "spin out of control of the IAEA."
In New York, Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry would not give any details and said his country and France wanted "an incremental approach."
US Ambassador John Bolton, who chaired the meeting, told reporters, "We talked about the role and reaction of the Security Council to the continued Iranian violation of the [nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty."