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. Iran ex-president warns IAEA resolution will 'cost' the West
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 12, 2005
Top Iranian figure Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Iran's decision to resume sensitive nuclear work was "irreversible" and warned that Western opposition to Iran's program will "cost them dearly."

During a Friday sermon, the prominent ayatollah said: "You could drag things on but Iran's decision is irreversible," drawing chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" from the faithful.

Rafsanjani's remarks came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors adopted a resolution expressing "serious concern" at Tehran's decision to resume uranium conversion activities.

The influential former president warned worshippers not to "take lightly what happened at the IAEA. It is very important and will create new conditions for our country and the region. It will turn a new leaf in the history of our revolution.

"It will cost them dearly," he vowed, signaling the possibility of a hardened stance by a country that plays an important role in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf as well as being a major oil producer.

"Bear in mind that you cannot treat Iran like Iraq or Libya," added Rafsanjani, who heads Iran's top arbitration body, the Expediency Council.

Hundreds of worshippers took to the streets after the prayers, demanding Iran's nuclear rights and shouting slogans against the "Great Satan".

Since early Friday, Iranian state TV has been airing interviews with ordinary people on the street slamming the IAEA decision and insisting on Iran's right to nuclear technology.

The IAEA resolution urged Iran to re-establish full suspension of all enrichment-related activities, after Tehran raised the stakes in the dispute by removing IAEA seals at a conversion facility in Isfahan, 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Tehran.

Suspicious of Iran's 18 years of concealments, Western countries are concerned that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and is using its energy program as a cover.

Uranium conversion produces a gas that is the feedstock for enriching uranium, which fuels nuclear reactors and can potentially provide the raw material for atomic bombs.

Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative who was the top challenger in Iran's recent presidential election, lost to ultraconservative Mahmood Ahmadinejad.

During the campaign, he had stressed the importance of finding a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue.

In his sermon, Rafsanjani said Iran has a right to enrichment within the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while insisting the process resumed Wednesday is a non-sensitive part of the fuel cycle and is under strict IAEA control.

"Nobody could be more transparent than us" but "it is clear that we cannot build confidence", he said.

IAEA chief Mohammad Elbaradei is on September 3 to give a report on Iran's compliance, which could lead to a new emergency IAEA meeting and possible referral to the UN Security Council for sanctions.

An Iranian official said Thursday a second facility in Natanz would maintain its suspension of enrichment activity to "keep the door open for negotiations."

In November, Iran signed an accord with the EU in Paris under which it agreed to suspend certain activities including uranium conversion and enrichment for the duration of negotiations aimed at securing guarantees that Tehran's program was purely peaceful.

Iran has considerably toughened its tone since conservatives consolidated their grip on power in the country, notably with election of hardliner Ahmadinejad to top office.

Before the EU resolution was adopted, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organisation Mohammad Saidi warned an accord with the European Union over its nuclear program would become void if it were adopted.

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