- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

TEHRAN — Iran vowed yesterday to press ahead with uranium enrichment despite U.N. economic sanctions aimed at forcing a rollback in its nuclear program, and hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that the penalties would hurt the West more than Iran.

Tehran also said it will review its relations with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency following the sanctions.

“This will not damage the nation of Iran, but its issuers will soon regret this superficial and nil act,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, addressing a group of veterans from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war at the former American Embassy in Tehran.

The measures adopted unanimously Saturday by the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council were the first concrete steps taken against Iran for defying a U.N. demand that it rein in the nuclear program to allay suspicions it is trying to develop atomic weapons.

Addressing countries that voted for the sanctions, Mr. Ahmadinejad said the only impact of the sanctions would be “dissolving your reputation,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as telling the veterans.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said the resolution made his country more “decisive in realizing our nuclear aims.” He said it would step up enrichment activities.

“From Sunday morning, we will begin activities at Natanz — the site of 3,000 centrifuge machines — and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution,” Iran’s Kayhan newspaper quoted Mr. Larijani as saying.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said the Security Council vote would lead Iran to change the way it deals with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We are not obliged and it is not expected that cooperation with the IAEA continues” as it did in the past, Mr. Hosseini told reporters. He did not provide details about what would change.

Iran’s parliament voted yesterday to urge Mr. Ahmadinejad’s administration to revise its cooperation with the IAEA, but did not set a timeline or provide further details. Many legislators chanted “Death to America” after the vote.

The resolution says the Security Council will review Iran’s actions in light of a report from the head of the IAEA, requested within 60 days, on whether Iran has suspended uranium enrichment and complied with other demands. Sanctions will end when the IAEA confirms Iran has complied with all its obligations.

Oil-rich Iran insists its nuclear program is intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity, but Washington and some allies suspect its ultimate goal is to create atomic weapons in violation of Iran’s treaty commitments.

The U.N. resolution orders all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also freezes the assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

If Iran refuses to comply, the council warned it would adopt further nonmilitary sanctions, but the resolution emphasized the importance of diplomacy in seeking guarantees “that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Layla Chamankhah, an independent political analyst, predicted that “Iran’s international reputation will be damaged” by the dispute, but he played down the potential for economic harm from the sanctions. But Hamid Reza Shokouhi, a columnist for the independent newspaper Mardomsalari, said the sanctions will reduce the confidence of foreign investors.

The United States has said it hopes the resolution will clear the way for tougher measures by individual countries, particularly Russia, if Iran doesn’t back down.

The U.S. administration had pushed for tougher penalties, but compromised to bring on board Russia and China, both of which have strong trade ties with Iran, and Qatar, one of Iran’s Persian Gulf neighbors.

To get their votes, the resolution dropped a ban on international travel by Iranian officials involved in nuclear and missile development and specified the banned items and technologies.

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