TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will not retreat from its nuclear program, Tehran's hard-line leaders said Tuesday, one day after North Korea announced it had conducted a nuclear weapons test.
"Our policy is clear: Progress, offering transparent logic and insisting on the rights of the nation without retreat," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, according to state-run television.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also affirmed that Iran would continue its nuclear program, which it says is for peaceful purposes.
"The Iranian nation will continue its path of dignity based on resistance, wisdom and without fear," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.
On Monday, North Korea declared it conducted an underground nuclear weapons test. Iran stood apart Tuesday from the chorus of global criticism condemning North Korea, instead blaming Washington for the test.
Khamenei said Iran would continue to pursue its program and not bow to international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.
The supreme leader said because Iran previously had voluntarily suspended enrichment, it would not consider doing so again.
"If we had not experienced that path perhaps we would have criticized ourselves today. But now, we will pursue with a strong heart," Khamenei said.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly rejected Western calls to halt uranium enrichment, brushing aside an Aug. 31 U.N. Security Council deadline to stop enrichment or face possible sanctions.
Uranium enriched to low levels is used to produce nuclear fuel but it can be used to develop nuclear weapons if it is enriched at higher levels.
Although Iran contends its nuclear program is for generating electricity, the U.S. and some of its allies allege it is secretly developing atomic weapons.