Iran Threatens to Hide Nuclear Program
Ali Akbar Dareini, The Guardian:
Iran ratcheted up its defiance ahead of a U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, threatening Tuesday to hide its program if the West takes ``harsh measures'' and to transfer nuclear technology to chaos-ridden Sudan.
Ali Larijani, the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, also renewed a vow to end cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and said increasing pressure on Iran would only stiffen its resolve.
``If you take harsh measures, we will hide this program. If you use the language of force, you should not expect us to act transparently,'' Larijani said, adding that Western nations ``have to understand they cannot resolve this issue through force.''
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fired back almost immediately, saying, ``Iranians can threaten, but they are deepening their own isolation.'' READ MORE
Top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the offer to transfer nuclear technology at a meeting Tuesday with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
``Iran's nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. ... The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists,'' Khamenei told al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir said last month that his impoverished, violence-ridden country was considering a nuclear program to generate electricity.
Such a technology transfer would be legal as long as it is between signatory states to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is informed.
We ``have to be concerned when there are statements from Iran that Iran would not only have this technology, but would share it, share technology and expertise,'' Rice told reporters during a visit to Ankara, Turkey.
Russia, meanwhile, launched a satellite Tuesday for Israel that the Israelis say will be used to spy on Iran's nuclear program. The satellite is designed to spot small images on the ground and would allow Israel to monitor Iran's nuclear program and long-range missiles, an Israel defense official said.
With the U.N. deadline approaching Friday, Iran has become more defiant almost daily.
``If U.N. Security Council sanctions are to be imposed on Iran, we will definitely suspend our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency,'' Larijani said, echoing the words of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a day earlier.
Iran's stance appeared to stem in part from opposition to sanctions by Russia and China, both veto-holding members of the Security Council.
``We see no alternative to the negotiations process,'' Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said. And Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang urged all parties ``to show flexibility.''
The United States has not openly threatened military action and says it wants a diplomatic solution. But President Bush has said all options, including military force, remain on the table.
Britain also warned Iran against miscalculating.
``The Iranians, in my judgment, would miscalculate if they believed Russia or China would block appropriate and effective sanctions, which targeted the regime, not the ordinary population,'' Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
Iran's tough talk appeared to be the strongest public show so far ahead of the Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or for warheads.
On Monday, Ahmadinejad boldly predicted the council would not impose sanctions and warned Iran was considering dropping out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Larijani emphasized that stance Tuesday, saying Iran would ignore the demand.
``If you take the first step wrong, the wrong trend will continue. We welcome any logical proposal to resolve the issue. They just need to say why should we suspend,'' he said.
The IAEA said it would not issue any public statements ahead of director Mohamed ElBaradei's report to the Security Council and the agency's board, expected by week's end.
The United States and European allies are expected to press for binding measures against Iran when the Security Council begins the next round of review of the Iranian case.
Although Rice has raised the likelihood of pressing for sanctions, she did not go that far Tuesday, saying only that the Security Council must issue something more concrete than last month's ``presidential statement,'' which gave Iran 30 days to comply.
Larijani said sanctions might force Iran to speed up its nuclear programs. ``You can't set a framework through coercion. If you try to do it by force, our response will be to break such a framework,'' he said.
The United States, Britain and France suspect Iran is seeking to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its nuclear program is intended to generate electricity.
Western concerns have built since 2002 when Iran was found to have secretly operated large-scale nuclear activities for two decades.
The IAEA says it has since found no direct evidence of an arms program, but the Iranians have not been fully forthcoming.
After repeated attempts at negotiations, the IAEA reported Iran to the Security Council for noncompliance. The council then gave Iran until Friday to suspend enrichment.