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. Iran ex-president warns West on sanctions
TEHRAN, Dec 31 (AFP) Dec 31, 2006
Iran's influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned Western powers Sunday that pressuring Iran to halt its controversial nuclear work would have consequences for the whole region.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on December 23 that imposes sanctions on Iran for its refusal to freeze nuclear enrichment -- a process that can make nuclear fuel or the fissile core of an atom bomb.

"This is a dangerous resolution, they are creating problems for themselves and the region ... many will suffer from the smoke of this fire," Rafsanjani said in a prayer sermon carried live on state radio.

"Sanctions cannot make Iran surrender," the former president said, while pledging cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency to "clear allegations that Iran wants to go towards nuclear military work".

"We are ready to cooperate with international organizations with all their rules of inspection," he said, calling on Iranian officials to seek to resolve the nuclear standoff with "prudence and patience".

In response to the UN resolution, Iran's conservative-dominated parliament on Wednesday adopted a bill requiring the government to "revise" its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The bill gives the government a free hand to decide precisely how to reduce cooperation, which could involve limiting UN inspections of Iran's nuclear sites.

The West fears Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear programme. Tehran vehemently denies the charge, insisting it wants to enrich uranium solely to provide energy for a fast-growing population.

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