TEHRAN, Iran – Iran threatened on Friday to block inspections of its nuclear sites if confronted by the U.N. Security Council over its atomic activities. The hard-line president reaffirmed his country's intention to produce nuclear energy.
The move came a day after France, Britain and Germany — backed by the United States — said that nuclear talks with Iran had reached a dead end after more than two years of acrimonious negotiations and the issue should be referred to the Security Council.
With the support of Russia and China uncertain, however, they refrained from calling on the 15-nation council to impose sanctions and said they remained open to more talks.
Iran said Friday that if it were confronted by the Security Council, it would have to stop cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
That would be, among other things, the end of random inspections, said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
"In case Iran is referred to the U.N. Security Council ..., the government will be obliged to end all of its voluntary cooperation," the television quoted Mottaki as saying.
Iran has been voluntarily allowing short-notice IAEA inspections since 2003.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed talk of possible sanctions and said Iran will "continue the path of production of the nuclear energy."
"Iranian people do not allow foreigners to block their progress," state-run radio quoted him as saying.
Last year Iran adopted a law requiring the government to block intrusive inspections of Iran's facilities if the IAEA refers the Iranian program to the council.
The law also requires the Iranian government to resume all nuclear activities that it had stopped voluntarily, foremost among them enriching uranium.
On Tuesday, Iran removed some U.N. seals in the presence of IAEA inspectors from its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, central Iran, and resumed research on nuclear fuel.
Iran said it was resuming "merely research" and that "production of nuclear fuel" — which would involve enrichment — "remains suspended." But the IAEA said Tehran also planned small-scale enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity or material for nuclear weapons.
"I recommend to European countries that they should separate the issue of research from production of nuclear fuel and not make propaganda over research which is natural and normal but had unjustly been subject to suspension in the past," Mottaki was quoted as saying.
Mottaki said Iran was prepared for talks with Europeans over uranium enrichment.
"If they have any discussion in the stage of nuclear fuel production, we are prepared to continue our talks with the three European countries," he said.
Mottaki, however, insisted that Iran won't give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to possess the whole nuclear fuel cycle — from extracting uranium ore to enriching it.
"No one can take this right from the Iranian nation. Regaining this right doesn't require permission from any country," the television quoted him as saying.