Iran defiant ahead of UN deadline to halt enrichment
Iran vowed Thursday it "will not bow to injustice and pressure," as the United States called on Security Council to be ready to take action on the Islamic Republic over any failure to comply with international demands. On the eve of a UN deadline to stop sensitive nuclear work expires, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the UN atomic agency, not the more politicized Security Council, should take charge of efforts to resolve the standoff.
"If you think by frowning at us, by issuing resolutions ... you can impose anything on the Iranian nation or force it to abandon its obvious right, you still don't know its power," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally in northwest Iran.
"We have obtained the technology for producing nuclear fuel ... No one can take it away from our nation," he added.
Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is widely expected to tell the council and the agency's board on Friday that Iran has not stopped purifying uranium or satisfied IAEA queries as the top UN body asked a month ago.
Speaking at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sofia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was "highly unlikely" that Tehran would comply with international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.
"It goes without saying that the United States believes that in order to be credible the UN Security Council of course has to act," Rice told a news conference before a session of talks in which NATO allies were due to discuss possible steps.
In the Siberian city of Tomsk, Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both emphasized the need for diplomacy to solve the Iran standoff, but differed over the Security Council's role.
After Merkel had stressed the council's importance in the dispute, Putin pointedly said at their joint news conference: "We think that the IAEA must continue to play a major, key role and it must not shrug off its responsibilities to resolve such questions and shift them onto the UN Security Council."
However, the Russian leader did not reiterate Moscow's long-stated opposition to sanctions, keeping his options open.
"It is too early to run ahead and say what decisions we might make together. The main thing is that any decisions that are made must be made in agreement" among all involved.
China gave no sign it was ready to line up behind Western powers seeking sanctions against Iran, but analysts said it was unlikely to block their way.
The Foreign Ministry in Beijing called for calm, restraint and patience.
"A diplomatic solution is the correct choice and is in the interests of all parties," spokesman Qin Gang said. "China urges all parties to avoid measures that could worsen the situation."
Talks between Iran's nuclear chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh and ElBaradei on Wednesday failed to make any headway, diplomats said. - Agencies