"The time for bullying is over," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the western province of Lorestan, according to the official IRNA news agency.
|Iranians hold portraits of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) in the western province of Lorestan, March 8, 2006 (AFP Photo)|
"Some powers think... they can force the Iranian people to retreat. But all the Iranian nation, young or old, urban dweller or villager, farmer or factory worker are all saying one thing: Nuclear energy is our undeniable right," he said.
"The Iranian people are not bullies and will not be bullied," Ahmadinejad said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, on Wednesday opened the way for Security Council action against Iran, which is suspected of using an atomic energy drive as a mask for weapons development.
Envoys of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- the five veto-wielding, permanent members of the Council -- have privately discussed the issue and a diplomat said they could formally take up the case within the next week.
Iran says nuclear diplomacy still open, but no new compromise
Iran said Thursday that it was still open to talks over its disputed nuclear programme despite being reported to the Security Council, but stuck by its refusal to return to a full freeze of sensitive atomic work.
"Iran will not give up its right to research and development because this is against the wishes of the Iranian people," senior national security official Abdol Reza Rahmani-Fazli told state media.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, on Wednesday opened the way for Security Council action against Iran over its atomic energy drive -- seen in the West as a cover for weapons development.
Unlike the IAEA, the Security Council has enforcement powers and can impose punitive measures, including sanctions.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to cooperate with the IAEA in order to achieve its rights, but will not accept the politicisation of the nuclear case," said Rahmani-Fazli, the deputy of top Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani.
"The principle of negotiations as a way to answer all questions is considered open," he added.
Europe and the United States have led the drive for action, saying Iran has hidden the truth about its nuclear programme and should not be allowed to enrich uranium, which can provide the fuel for civilian reactors but also, in highly enriched form, material for atomic weapons.
Rahmani-Fazli, however, said that Iran's insistence on only conducting research was a sign of its "good faith".