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. Iran vows retaliation for UN nuclear sanctions
TEHRAN, Oct 22 (AFP) Oct 22, 2006
Iran admitted on Sunday it was heading for UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, warning it would take "appropriate measures" in retaliation for any punitive action.

"Imposing sanctions has repercussions on both sides, regionally and internationally. They already know this. If they impose sanctions we will take appropriate measures," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

His comments came as momentum picked up among world powers to find agreement on sanctions against Iran, after the UN Security Council rapidly secured agreement for action against North Korea over its announced nuclear test.

Asked if such "regional repercussions" would have an effect on the Strait of Hormuz, a vitally important channel for transporting oil, Hosseini replied: "it depends on the kind of sanctions."

Oil market participants have in the past expressed fears that Iran could block the strait in retaliation for sanctions and send the price of oil spiralling. But Iran's leaders have repeatedly vowed not to use oil as a weapon.

Hosseini did not elaborate further and refused to say what measures Iran could take if sanctions were imposed, such as blocking inspections of its nuclear sites by the UN atomic watchdog.

"When they approve it we will make an announcement," he said.

Iran's parliament has proposed a bill -- already approved by its security commission -- that would automatically suspend International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections if sanctions were imposed.

The foreign ministry spokesman admitted that Iran now appeared to be heading for sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be diverted to making nuclear weapons.

"The path they are taking is the Security Council, passing resolutions and imposing sanctions," he told reporters. "The stance they are taking is towards sanctions."

Hosseini insisted that Iran still wanted to negotiate. "There is another path, the path of negotiation and understanding. This is the path that we have chosen."

But he reaffirmed Iran's unequivocal rejection of Western calls for it to halt uranium enrichment before any full negotiations take place while also saying the issue could be discussed at such talks.

"The suspension of uranium enrichment does not have any place in our policy."

"If the conditions of the negotiations were fair this issue could be discussed," he added. "If suspension is the outcome of the negotiation we can decide on it. But as a precondition or during the negotiation -- no."

Iran insists that its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating energy and vehemently rejects US charges that it is seeking atomic weapons.

Weeks of talks between Iran and the European Union aimed at finding a deal stalled over uranium enrichment, with both sides refusing to budge from key demands. The EU was seeking an unconditional suspension before any negotiations could start.

Hosseini blamed the influence of "certain countries or a certain country which is seeking adventure" for the collapse of the talks, in an allusion to Tehran's arch enemy the United States and its allies.

Germany and permanent UN Security Council members Britain and France are now finalising a draft sanctions resolution that will be put to the world body, although officials have warned it may take time to find agreement.

Russia and China -- which both have important ties to Iran and are traditionally reluctant to use sanctions as a diplomatic tool -- are likely to oppose a severe regime of sanctions against Tehran.

A first set of punitive measures would focus on banning the supply of material and funding for Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. Other steps could include asset freezes and travel bans on nuclear scientists.

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