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Iran Remains Defiant Despite UN Security Council Deadline

By Golnaz Esfandiari

Several Iranian officials have rejected a UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment. Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Ashgar Soltaniyeh, said on March 30 that Tehran's decision to pursue enrichment is irreversible. Soltaniyeh's comments came as ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany warned Tehran that it will be isolated if it does not comply.

PRAGUE, March 31, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian officials remain defiant about their nuclear program despite a warning by world powers that Tehran must abide by a UN deadline to halt its uranium-enrichment activities.

Former Iranian President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said today that the continuation of the "unjust" situation against Iran's nuclear case will cause "shame" for international organizations.

Rafsanjani warned that if the current situation continues it will damage not only Iran but also the region and could lead to "disaster."

No Affect On Tehran

Earlier today, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also said Iran will remain steadfast in its pursuit of acquiring nuclear technology.

Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Council, said that Western countries do not want Iran to access nuclear technology but he said Iran will keep pushing for its "legitimate" rights.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki also insisted on March 30 that Iran will not give up its right to peaceful nuclear activities.

Mottaki described as a "bad move" a March 29 UN Security Council statement giving Iran 30 days to abandon uranium-enrichment activities and said that the decision marks "another dimension of hasty decisions."

"I need to emphasize here that the use of political methods in order to deprive nations of their inalienable right will not lead anywhere," he said. "It will only lead to the weakening of international treaties and crisis."

Parliamentarians In Step

Several Iranian parliament deputies also on March 30 rejected the deadline by the UN Security Council and said that Iran should continue its nuclear-fuel research.

Deputy Ali Asgari told the semi-official Mehr News agency that "the UN Security Council is not the end of the world and even if it issues a hundred statements, we will not retreat from our indisputable rights."

Asgari said that Britain and the United States should know that "Iran is not Afghanistan or Iraq" so that they cannot achieve their interests by making threats.

Soleiman Jafarzadeh, a member of the parliament's National Security Commission, said Iran will not pay the least bit of attention to the UN statement that he said was approved "under pressure from certain countries."

Council Decision Derided

Jafarzadeh said the call for Iran to halt uranium enrichment is "ridiculous." He described Iran as "the strongest and most effective country" in the region and warned that "the U.S. and Europe should know that they will eventually have to pay the price for their actions against Iran and [for making] such unfair decisions in the Middle East."

Another security commission member, Elham Aminzadeh, said that the UN decision against Iran will be registered as a "negative record" in the history of the UN.

She added that "if some countries want to impose only parts of [the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] on us, and by doing so deny us our nuclear rights, then there is no use for us to remain a member of the treaty."

Despite such comments, Tehran has not yet formally reacted to the UN Security Council document.

Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science in Tehran, says it is highly unlikely that Iranian officials will change their stance in the remaining time.

"We are having [Norouz] holidays in Iran and it is too early to comment on the reactions by Iranian officials," he said. "But right now we can say that the mere issuing of this resolution will not lead Iran to make a U-turn, therefore I don't think anything special will happen in this one month and Iran will stand by its position but, as Iran has said before, it has by no means closed the doors to negotiations."

Compromise Possible?

Zibakalam believes, however, that it is still possible that a compromise deal will be reached.

The UN statement does not say what consequences might follow if Tehran ignores the deadline.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on March 30 that Iran could eventually face international sanctions if it refuses demands to halt enrichment.

But senior diplomats from Russia and China, speaking after a meeting of the five permanent Security Council members in Berlin, indicated their governments did not support sanctions.

IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei is quoted by news agencies as saying that sanctions are "a bad idea."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki said on March 30 in regard to possible UN sanctions that "different countries are saying that such a possibility, at least for the time being, does not exist."

But he added that Iran has readied itself to meet all possibilities.

Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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