TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran won't retreat "one iota" from its nuclear program but the world is being misled by claims that it seeks atomic weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in his first reaction since a U.N. watchdog report that Tehran is on the brink of developing a warhead.
Ahmadinejad strongly chided the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, saying it is discrediting itself by siding with "absurd" U.S. accusations.
"This nation won't retreat one iota from the path it is going," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Shahr-e-Kord in central Iran. "Why are you ruining the prestige of the (U.N. nuclear) agency for absurd U.S. claims?"
The 13-page annex to the IAEA's report released Tuesday included claims that while some of Iran's activities have civilian as well as military applications, others are "specific to nuclear weapons."
Among these were indications that Iran has conducted high explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge, as well as computer modeling of a core of a nuclear warhead. The report also cited preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test, and development of a nuclear payload for Iran's Shahab 3 intermediate range missile — a weapon that can reach Israel.
Ahmadinejad repeated Iran's claims that it doesn't make sense to build nuclear weapons in a world already awash in atomic arms.
"The Iranian nation is wise. It won't build two bombs against 20,000 (nuclear) bombs you have," he said in comments apparently directed at the West and others. "But it builds something you can't respond to: Ethics, decency, monotheism and justice," he added in a his speech, which was broadcast live on state TV.
The U.S. and allies claim a nuclear-armed Iran could touch off a nuclear arms race among rival states, including Saudi Arabia, and directly threaten Israel. The West is seeking to use the report as leverage to possible tougher sanctions on Iran, but Israel and others have said military options have not been ruled out.
The bulk of the information in the IAEA report was a compilation of alleged findings that have already been partially revealed by the agency. But some of the information was new — including evidence of a large metal chamber at a military site for nuclear-related explosives testing. Iran has dismissed that, saying they were merely metal toilet stalls.
The U.N. Security Council has passed four sets of damaging sanctions on Iran, but veto-wielding members China and Russia oppose further measures and are unlikely to change their minds despite the report's findings.
China has not isn't publicly commented yet on a U.N. assessment of Iran's nuclear programs in a likely sign that it will wait for Washington and Moscow to signal their intentions.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that Beijing was studying the report and repeated calls for dialogue and cooperation.
In Paris, France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said his country is ready to push for new sanctions of "an unprecedented scale" if Iran refuses to answer new questions about its nuclear program.
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