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. Iran could hide sensitive nuclear work if attacked: senior official
VIENNA, Dec 15 (AFP) Dec 15, 2006
Iran is ready to hide its uranium enrichment and continue with the sensitive nuclear work if threatened with military attack, a senior Iranian official said Friday.

"We have a large country, 1 million 600 thousand square kilometres and for centrifuge machines (which enrich uranium) the room of this size is enough," Iran's ambassador to the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh told a seminar in Vienna in a medium-sized conference room.

Centrifuge machines "could be done, could be performed, could be installed anywhere and could be protected," he told a gathering at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs.

Soltanieh was speaking as the UN Security Council debates in New York whether to impose sanctions on Iran for failing to honor a Council ultimatum to suspend uranium enrichment, which makes what can be fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or the raw material for atom bombs.

Iran insists on its right to enrich uranium as part of a peaceful drive to generate electricity but the United States charges that Tehran is hiding secret work on making nuclear weapons.

Experts have warned that attacking Iran's known atomic facilities might only drive the Iranian program underground and Soltanieh's comments were among the first from Iranian officials that they would do exactly that.

"Iran has got the technology, the know-how of enrichment and it is authorized by the IAEA. If therefore the Americans say hurry up, pass resolutions, let's have a military attack to stop Iran they are making a mistake," Soltanieh said.

"Iran is not a small island that with a Katrina (referring to the hurricane that devastated New Orleans) would disappear," he said.

In Tehran, Iran's top nuclear official warned Western powers they would face "painful measures" by the Islamic republic if sanctions were imposed.

"If the aim of the West is to erode our will by depriving us of our nuclear rights, we will have to employ painful measures against the West," Ali Larijani told reporters.

"If they want to use the weapon of threats, they will have to expect pressure in return," he added.

The head of parliament's foreign affairs committee, Alaedin Boroujerdi earlier said Tehran could curb IAEA inspections of its atomic facilities if sanctions were imposed.

Soltanieh said: "Is it not wise (to maintain) the situation... that all centrifuge machines (at Iran's enrichment facility in Natanz) are under 24 hours cameras of the IAEA and almost every week or two weeks the inspectors are there and everything is full transparent."

"Let this course of action continue," Soltanieh said.

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