Iran defiant ahead of U.N. nuclear watchdog report
By Zahra Hosseinian
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran warned the West against hitting it with more sanctions over its nuclear plans, speaking before a U.N. watchdog report likely to say Tehran is being more transparent but not enough to show its aims are solely peaceful.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made clear again Iran would not halt uranium enrichment activities which Western powers fear are aimed at yielding bombs but which Tehran calls a civilian drive to produce electricity so it can export more oil.
"Today the Iranian nation stands firm ... and will not allow anyone to infringe on its rights even a small bit," he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency late on Thursday.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was due on Friday to release its latest report on efforts since 2003 to resolve suspicions about Iran's nuclear program.
Diplomats familiar with IAEA monitoring said the report would say Iran has given inspectors a look at technological advances earlier kept of sight but not fulfilled a pledge to clear up all questions about past activities by mid-February.
The report was also expected to say Iran was still not being open enough for the IAEA to verify there are no hidden military dimensions to the program, and confirm Iran is testing new centrifuges able to enrich uranium faster than it has so far.
The head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said he expected a "positive" IAEA report, the ISNA news agency said.
But Britain and France said on Thursday they hoped the U.N. Security Council would vote next week on a revised sanctions resolution against Iran, suggesting they did not believe the IAEA report would alter the case for new punitive measures.
Tehran denies wanting nuclear weapons and has ignored three previous Security Council resolutions demanding that it freeze its uranium enrichment program, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed the righteousness of the Iranian nation in many of its reports and it is in your advantage to end the story here," Ahmadinejad said in reference to Western powers pressuring Iran.
"Our enemies should know that the Iranian nation is united and powerful," he told war veterans in a southern province. "If you are after starting a new game, be sure that you will not be able to do anything except making trouble for yourself."
France's ambassador to the United Nations made it clear on Thursday the IAEA report focused on the agency's investigations of Iran's past nuclear activities and was therefore of little relevance to the sanctions debate.
"It won't answer the question (of suspension) and it's not enough," Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters.
The United States, which supports the text drafted by Britain, France and Germany, had hoped the resolution would be passed weeks ago. But several non-Western council members insisted they delay a vote until after IAEA issues its report.
The draft calls for asset freezes and mandatory travel bans for specific Iranian officials and vigilance on Iranian banks.
(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna)
(Reporting Zahra Hosseinian; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)