Mon, Aug 07, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran vows to hit back at sanctions, push atomic work

ANGRIER AND ANGRIER Iran's chief negotiator said his country did not want to use 'the oil weapon,' and would respond to the UN's incentive package later this month


Iran vowed yesterday to expand its atomic fuel work and warned that any UN sanctions aimed at halting its uranium enrichment would incur a painful riposte, possibly including a cut in oil exports.

Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran would expand the number of atomic centrifuges it was running. Centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning it at supersonic speeds.

"We reject this resolution," he told a news conference.

"We will expand our nuclear technology at whatever stage it may be necessary and all of Iran's nuclear technology including the [centrifuge] cascades will be expanded," he said.

Such remarks flatly reject a UN Security Council resolution demanding Tehran halt its nuclear work by Aug. 31 or face the threat of sanctions.

Iranian officials say the resolution was illegal and that Tehran has every right to produce fuel from the uranium ore it mines in its central deserts.

Larijani said all Iranian nuclear activities would remain under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAE), but that could be in question if Iran felt unfairly treated.

"We do not want to end the supervision of the agency, but you should not do anything to force Iran to do so," he said.

He warned the UN Security Council not to impose sanctions on the world's fourth biggest exporter of crude oil.

"If they do, we will react in a way that would be painful for them. They should not think that they can hurt us and we would stand still without a reaction," he said.

"We do not want to use the oil weapon, it is they who would impose it upon us. Iran should be allowed to defend its rights in proportion to their stance," he added.

Although Iran has intermittently threatened to use its massive oil exports as a weapon in international diplomacy, Tehran receives 80 percent of export earnings from energy and would find such a cut hard to maintain.

Iranian officials often say that sanctions would hurt the West more than Tehran by lifting already high oil prices to levels that would be unmanageable for industrialized economies.

Larijani also said the Security Council resolution was ``contrary'' to a package of Western incentives offered in June to persuade Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

He confirmed that Iran would formally respond on Aug. 22 to the incentives package.

Larijani said talks, not threats, would resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear activities, and blamed the West for compromising a diplomatic solution.

``We were expected to hold talks ... to remove ambiguities ... but they issued a resolution [at the UN Security Council] and killed it [talks],'' he said.

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