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. Iran fires off more threats after nuclear sanction
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 27, 2005
Iran fired off a barrage of threats on Tuesday, saying it could retaliate over efforts to haul it before the UN Security Council by blocking tough inspections of its nuclear sites and resuming ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment activities.

The foreign ministry told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose 35-nation board on Saturday chastised Iran for failing to come clean over its nuclear programme, to "correct" its view of the Islamic republic.

If not, Iran "will be forced to go back on all of its voluntary concessions, particularly the application of the additional protocol," the ministry said.

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's additional protocol -- signed but not ratified by Iran -- gives the IAEA more inspection powers and is central to efforts clear up suspicions Iran is seeking the bomb.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters the hardline clerical regime could also end a freeze on uranium enrichment -- a process to make reactor fuel which can also be diverted to make weapons.

"The suspension of enrichment is also among the concessions that we will cancel, and we will put other measures or actions on the agenda," he said, adding that Iran "will wait a few days" to see if its demands are met before retaliating.

Iran froze its enrichment programme two years ago as a "confidence building measure". A resumption of the work and an end to close IAEA surveillance would be certain to result in a major escalation of tensions.

Asefi also repeated a warning made last week by Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, that if the crisis escalates further Iran could follow the path of North Korea by quitting the NPT altogether.

"Quitting the NPT depends on the future decisions of the agency. If the agency and Europe show harsh behaviour, they will push us towards the direction of taking proportional and harsher steps," Asefi warned.

"They should be careful not to push us to that point."

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors on Saturday adopted a resolution that finds Iran in "non-compliance" with nuclear proliferation safeguards.

A finding of non-compliance is an automatic trigger for taking the matter to the Security Council -- a stain on any country's record. But referral would come only after a new report by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei, probably in November.

"We will send a letter of objection to the countries that voted for the resolution," Asefi said of the 22 nations that lined up against Iran, adding these states also faced economic consequences.

"Iran will revise these (economic) relations, and these countries will suffer. Our economic and political relations are coordinated with each other," he said, also voicing "surprise" that India also backed the resolution.

The United States and European Union want Iran to abandon all work related to uranium enrichment, arguing Iran cannot be trusted with such sensitive technology, but also offering incentives in return.

Tensions worsened in August when Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful, formally rejected any such demands and ended a freeze on uranium conversion -- a precursor to enrichment.

The resolution said Iran could avoid penalties by halting conversion, fully cooperating with AEA inspectors and returning to the EU talks. Iran has so far refused to do so.

Quoted by state television, hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said "the Iranian government has given maximum access to agency inspectors, aiming to create confidence and remove ambiguities."

"Iran's brave scientists have mastered the fuel cycle with their will power. The Iranian government will not give up the legal and definite rights of its people."

Asefi said the IAEA "cannot define special rules for the Islamic republic", adding that "if the Westerners want to bully us, we will not accept it."

"Go ahead, we will see who will suffer more," he said of the Security Council.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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