Iran ready to 'pay the price' for pursuing nuclear program
AP - World News
Aug 12, 2004
TEHRAN - Iran is ready to "pay the price" for pursuing a peaceful nuclear program, even if that means being brought before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, President Mohammad Khatami said Wednesday.
At the same time, Iran successfully test fired a new version of its ballistic Shahab-3 missile, which already was capable of reaching U.S. forces in the Middle East and since has been upgraded in response to Israeli missile development. The Shahab-3 can carry a nuclear warhead.
The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Rahim Safavi, warned that Iran "will crush" Israel if it attacks the Persian state, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Khatami said Tehran was ready to give guarantees that its nuclear program, including enriching uranium, would not be diverted toward making weapons, as Washington suspects. He said atomic weapons go against the teachings of Islam.
"We have nothing more than a word -- 'yes' -- to peaceful nuclear technology," Khatami said after a Cabinet meeting.
"This is our national interest and prestige. This is our strategy. But if they want to deny us of our basic right (to develop a peaceful nuclear program), we and our nation have to be prepared to pay the price."
Washington strongly suspects Iran is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for a secret nuclear weapons project. President Bush has labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.
The United States has been lobbying for the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Iran has rejected Washington's allegations, saying its nuclear program was geared only toward generating electricity.
Khatami said Iran does not want its case referred to the Security Council, but it will not worry if that happens.
"It's a remote possibility that (our dossier) is referred to the Security Council in September. Even if that happens, nothing will change. The pressure will continue. They (Americans) already condemn us and exert pressures now," a smiling Khatami said.
The IAEA is investigating nearly two decades of secret nuclear activities by Iran that were first revealed in 2003.
On Tuesday, the Bush administration said it was waiting for the agency's full report but was standing by its suspicions.
"Obviously, we think Iran has a weapons program, we think the evidence points to that," said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman. "What's troubling is that there are not clear, consistent answers that are provided in an open and transparent way . . . as promised."
But Khatami said new IAEA findings proved Tehran's claim that traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium found on some products in Iran were produced elsewhere.
"We didn't produce enriched uranium in Iran. The equipment was contaminated," he said.
The new agency findings were revealed Tuesday by diplomats in Vienna, Austria. The diplomats, who are familiar with Iran's nuclear dossier, told The Associated Press the IAEA has established that at least some enriched particles found in Iran originated in Pakistan.
The origin of hundreds of other samples has not been established. Still, the finding bolsters Tehran's assertion that all such traces were inadvertently imported on "contaminated" equipment it bought on the black market.
Khatami said Islam does not allow Iran to seek nuclear weapons.
"Due to our ideological beliefs, we can't acquire nuclear weapons . . . we can't use nuclear weapons even if they are used against us," he said. "We will give all the necessary guarantees to ensure that Iran doesn't work toward acquiring nuclear weapons."
Khatami said Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, will embark on a mission to try to defuse tensions over the nuclear program. He did not elaborate.
Earlier this month, Iran confirmed it resumed building nuclear centrifuges. The centrifuges are used to make uranium hexaflouride, which can be enriched to low levels to be used as fuel or to high levels to make weapons.
Iran restarted its effort after Britain, Germany and France failed to close Iran's dossier at the IAEA in June. Iran has called on the three to back its right to "dual use" nuclear technology that has both peaceful and weapons applications.
The three European nations have held out the prospect of supplying Iran with such technology only if suspicions about its program are eliminated.
The Shahab-3, which Iran last successfully tested in 2002 before providing it to the elite Revolutionary Guards, is the country's longest-range ballistic missile, with a range of about 810 miles.
A Defense Ministry statement reported by the official Islamic Republic News Agency said the test was successful.
"The previously assigned aims were achieved in this test," the statement said.
Iran's development of the missile prompted Israel and the United States to jointly develop the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system, one of the few systems capable of intercepting and destroying missiles at high altitudes.
Safavi was quoted by IRNA as saying, "If Israel is mad enough to attack Iran's national interests, we will come down on them like a hammer and will crush their bones."
It was unclear what prompted Safavi to make his remarks. Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in a 1981 airstrike to prevent it from making atomic bombs.
Iran: Tehrans Test Of New Missile Stirs Concern
By Breffni ORourke, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Iran has caused fresh concern with its test this week of a new version of its Shihab-3 ballistic missile. Top Iranian officials say the missile is for purely defensive purposes, but experts note it is capable of striking targets in Israel as well as U.S. targets in the Middle East. At the same time, Iranian leaders have said they intend to press on with what they say is a peaceful nuclear-energy program, despite international mistrust of their intentions. Just why is Iran taking this uncompromising line?
Prague, 12 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran, defying international pressure, has this week reiterated in word and deed its hard line on defense and nuclear-energy issues.
The test of a new, purportedly more accurate version of the Shihab-3 missile yesterday coincides with statements from Iranian leaders that they have no intention of giving up the country's nuclear-energy program, despite the international concerns.
Speaking during a visit to Australia, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani said today that his country needs the improved Shihab-3 in view of what he called "threats" from Israeli officials to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. "It's very natural that when our country is being threatened by a foreign country we have to get prepared to defend ourselves," he said.
The upgraded missile features greater accuracy, and a range of 1,300 kilometers, which means it can strike targets in Israel and also U.S. targets in the Persian Gulf region.
At the same time, Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami insisted that Iran will press ahead with its nuclear program, and is ready to take the consequences for doing so -- an apparent reference to the possible imposition of sanctions by the United Nations, at the instigation of the United States.
"We hope to resolve the issue through justifications, explanations and calm. But if anyone wanted to deprive us of our right, we and our nation would be ready to pay the price and not to abandon our national right [to pursue a peaceful nuclear program]," Khatami said.
Iran denies U.S. assertions that it is developing nuclear weapons. But international unease has been rekindled since earlier this month, when Iran announced it had resumed building centrifuges to enrich uranium. Such enriched uranium has dual civil and military applications, in that it can be used in both reactors to produce electricity, and in nuclear weapons.
U.S. Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli warned yesterday that Iran's secret nuclear-weapons program, combined with its continued development of medium-range missiles, poses a threat of regional destabilization.
Why is Tehran pushing so hard now, when the United States is plainly losing patience with Iran's course of action? Rohani gave a clue when he said Washington is struggling to deal with the consequences of its intervention in Iraq: "I think the experience of Iraq would be sufficient for the Americans for years to come not to think of invasion against any other country."
In other words, he is saying that Iran feels it does not have much to fear militarily from the United States, in view of Iraq, and can go its own way.
However, analyst Alireza Nourizadeh, of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, puts a different interpretation on these developments. He notes that the new Iraqi interim government of Iyad Allawi is not as friendly to its neighbor has had been expected.
"The Iranians at the moment are facing isolation. The government in Baghdad -- which they thought was going to be a friendly government because some of its members have connections with Iran -- has now turned against them after the discovery of Iranian-made weapons [in the hands of Iraqi insurgents] and also the arrest of Iranians accused of interfering in Iraqi internal affairs," Nourizadeh said.
Nourizadeh said that this unexpected rejection, coupled with the warnings from the United States -- as well as the talk of international sanctions and Israeli threats -- is having a big impact on Iranian leaders. But instead of producing a change of policy, it is producing hard-line defiance from Tehran.
"Always, when Iran is threatened, the so-called conservatives or radicals gain the upper hand and their response is strong. Also, [reformist President] Khatami is under pressure, he has to come up with ideas which are acceptable to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and the radicals. So we hear Khatami using the same vocabulary which we used to hear from the conservatives," Nourizadeh said.
The analyst says that despite Tehran's hard-line rhetoric, the Iranians are basically marking time until after the U.S. presidential election in November, to see what sort of administration they will be facing in Washington, and therefore what policy options they might have.
Arabs, Iran call for end to fighting
A US soldier on Thursday stands guard next to detained Iraqi men as the sound of heavy gunbattles resonated throughout the holy city of Najaf (AP photo by Hadi Mizban)
CAIRO (AP) Arab states and Iran called for a halt to fighting in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf on Thursday, as thousands of US and Iraqi soldiers launched a major push to defeat Shiite militia holed up in the city's shrine and cemetery.
Egypt urged the Iraqi and US troops to employ dialogue instead of force in Najaf, and Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the world should intervene quickly to "prevent the massacre of defenceless Iraqi people."
Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who left Najaf to London for treatment as the fighting began, said in a statement that his office is exerting efforts to put an end to the crisis.
Lebanon's most senior Shiite cleric criticised the Iraqi government for allowing the American offensive in a city revered across the Shiite world.
The US military said Thursday it had doubled the combat power deployed to crush militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr in Najaf. The two sides began fighting a week ago.
US and Iraqi military officials said only Iraqi forces would enter the Imam Ali shrine, the holiest place in the city, and that Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi would have to approve such an operation.
Explosions shook buildings near the shrine to Imam Ali, the cousin of Prophet Mohammad. The US military accused militiamen of firing 25 mortar bombs from the shrine compound.
In a statement released by his office and e-mailed to the Associated Press, Sistani said he was following the "suffering of the Iraqi people" in "deep sorrow and great worry." The statement said Sistani, who went to London last Friday, calls on all sides to work to end the crisis as soon as possible and to ensure it is not repeated in the future.
"His office is continuing to exert efforts with all sides, Iraqi officials and others, to put a quick end to the current tragic situation," the statement said.
In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa warned that the violation of sacred Muslim places could have "serious repercussions." Hours after Thursday's offensive began, Iraqi health authorities said five civilians had been killed and three wounded. US forces estimate they have killed hundreds of militiamen since the battle began last week, but the militia dispute this. Insurgents allied to Sadr's militia have attacked police stations and government buildings in the southern city of Kut, leading to the death of at least 70 people this week.
The fighting in Najaf is "a painful and sad shedding of Iraqi blood," Musa said Thursday.
"The violent confrontations going on for days in Najaf are not a positive sign for the near or far future of Iraq, and even beyond Iraq," Moussa added.
Iranian spokesman Asefi said the attacks in Najaf and Kut were "inhuman" and accused the American forces of lacking ethics.
"The recent attacks reveal the face of the occupiers that is hidden behind their false claims of democracy," Asefi said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement his government condemned "the violence and force that will lead only to more destruction ... for the brotherly Iraqi people." Aboul Gheit urged the warring parties to use "self-restraint and the adoption of dialogue to solve problems." In Lebanon, the Palestinian militant group Hamas said Najaf was being subjected to a "barbaric American aggression."
"We call for the withdrawal of the occupying forces from all Iraqi territory," Hamas said in a statement faxed to the Associated Press in Cairo.
Lebanon's most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, criticised the Iraqi government for allowing the Americans to enter a holy area.
"This government, which raises the banner of upholding the law, should have dealt with the matter through Iraqis," Fadlallah said in a statement, adding that the problem will not be solved by force.