Iran's Ahmadinejad Calls UN Nuclear Chief, Yukiya Amano, U.S. Pawn
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday criticized the head of the U.N.'s nuclear agency as an American pawn in the run-up to its expected release of a document said to document Tehran's nuclear weapons program.
Ahmadinejad said Iran will not stop its nuclear development, adopting a defiant position in advance of the report which could spur efforts for new sanctions against his country.
"If you think you can change the situation of the world through putting pressures on Iran, you are deadly wrong. The Iranian nation will not withdraw an iota," Ahmadinejad said.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, not weapons production.
The report, expected to be issued Wednesday, suggests that Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead and includes satellite imagery of a large steel container the IAEA believes is used for nuclear arms-related high explosives tests, diplomats told The Associated Press.
In remarks broadcast on state television, Ahmadinejad said that International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano was simply repeating U.S. allegations. "He delivers the papers that American officials hand on him," Ahmadinejad said.
"I am sorry that a person is heading the agency who has no power by himself and violates the agency's regulations, too," the Iranian president said.
He repeated Iran's stance that it is not involved in making a nuclear weapon. "They should know that if we want to remove the hand of the U.S. from the world, we do not need bombs and hardware. We work based on thoughts, culture and logic," he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday if Iran wanted to develop nuclear weapons, it would declare so openly, "but our reason and experience tell us that, for us, nuclear weapons would not serve as a deterrent." Salehi spoke during a visit to neighboring Armenia.
Ahmadinejad said the U.S. has recently added $81 billion to its current budget on nuclear weapons, some 300 times the entire Iranian nuclear budget.
These figures would put Iran's nuclear budget at roughly $270 million per year. Up to now Iranian officials have rarely referred to the budget for the program.
U.S. officials say the government will use the International Atomic Energy Agency report as leverage in making its case to other countries that sanctions against Iran should be expanded and toughened and that the enforcement of current sanctions should be tightened.
In the run-up to the report's release, Israel has been referring to the possibility of a military attack.
Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio Tuesday he is skeptical the international community would impose crippling sanctions on Iran after the report's release, and Israel will continue to recommend that no option be taken off the table. Israel considers Iran its most dangerous enemy.
In an apparent response to Barak, Iran's defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi on Tuesday warned Iran would hit back if attacked.
"Any adventurous and hostile act against Iran will face a strong, swift and stern response by the Iranian armed forces," Vahidi was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.
Russian President Dimitry Medvedev warned against threatening Iran with the use of force. Speaking in Berlin Tuesday, Medvedev said threats could lead to a war, "and for the Middle East this would be a catastrophe."
China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday that while Beijing is firmly opposed to any use of force, "the Iranian side should also show flexibility and sincerity."
China is Iran's biggest trading partner but has supported previous U.N. sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program.
In its latest report on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency outlines the sum of its knowledge on the Islamic Republic's alleged secret nuclear weapons work, including:
_Clandestine procurement of equipment and design information needed to make such arms;
_High explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge;
_Computer modeling of a core of a nuclear warhead;
_Preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test, and
_Developing and mounting a nuclear payload onto its Shahab 3 intermediate range missile – a weapon that can reach Israel, Iran's arch foe.
Ahead of the report's release, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of a possible Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program.
He told Israel Radio that he did not expect any new U.N. sanctions on Tehran to persuade it to stop its nuclear defiance, adding: We continue to recommend to our friends in the world and to ourselves, not to take any option off the table."
The "all options on the table" phrase is often used by Israeli politicians to mean a military assault, and Israeli government members have engaged in increased saber rattling recently suggesting that an attack was likely a more effective way to stop Iran's nuclear program than continued diplomacy..
While some of the suspected secret nuclear work outlined in the annex could also be used for peaceful purposes, "others are specific to nuclear weapons," said the confidential report obtained by The Associated Press.
Some of the information contained in the annex was new – including evidence of a large metal chamber at a military site for nuclear-related explosives testing. The bulk, however, was a compilation and expansion of alleged work already partially revealed by the agency.
But a senior diplomat familiar with the report said its significance lay in its comprehensiveness, thereby reflecting that Iran apparently had engaged in all aspects of testing that were needed to develop such a weapon. Also significant was the agency's decision to share most of what it knows or suspect about Iran's secret work the 35-nation IAEA board and the U.N. Security Council after being stonewalled by Tehran in its attempts to probe such allegations.
Copies of the report went to board members and the council, which has imposed four sets of U.N. sanction on Tehran for refusing to stop activities that could be used to make a nuclear weapon and refusing to cooperate with IAEA attempts to fully understand its nuclear program.
The agency said the annex was based on more than 1,000 pages of intelligence and other information forwarded by more than 10 nations and material gathered by the IAEA itself.