TEHRAN, Iran – Iran isn't backing down after a unanimous vote by the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions, announcing Sunday that it will partially suspend cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and will be adjusting relations with those nations who voted for sanctions.
Iranian officials called the vote by the U.N. Security Council in response to Tehran's refusal to stop enriching uranium "illegal and bullying."
"The Security Council has to be aware of its own position and status. Actions that are illegal, unwarranted and unjustified will reduce the credibility of the Security Council," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said through a translator while in New York.
"A few select countries don't have the right to abuse the Security Council," Mottaki added.
In response to the vote, the Iranian Cabinet also decided to stop informing the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency of any new steps or decisions in its nuclear weapons program, Gholam Hossein Elham, a government spokesman said on state television.
Sunday's decision is a response to "Saturday night's illegal and bullying resolution by the Security Council," Elham said. The suspension of cooperation "will continue until Iran's nuclear case is referred back to the IAEA from the U.N Security Council."
While Iran stands firm against the world, international pressure continues to mount for Tehran to release 15 British soldiers who Iranian officials say had crossed into Tehran's territory. Accused of trespassing, Britain says the sailors and marines were conducting a routine inspection of a merchant ship in the disputed Shatt Al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq when they were captured Friday by Iranian forces.
But as the European Union tries to put pressure on Iran to release the sailors, Mottaki said it is not persuaded by other countries, including the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — and Germany, all who refuse to negotiate on Iran's nuclear programs. The Council has said Iran must first halt its enrichment activities before it is willing to discuss atomic energy.
"If this political will existed, the other side wouldn't have imposed preconditions on the talks," Mottaki said, adding that the only other option besides negotiation is confrontation.
"Choosing the path of confrontation ... will have its own consequences," he said without elaborating.
On Sunday, the Iranian Cabinet suspended Iran's Safeguards Agreements under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires the country to inform the IAEA six months before it plans to introduce nuclear material of any kind into any facility.
Already, the country's officials have been lax in following its own offer to inform the agency of any planned new nuclear construction. Three years ago, for instance, Tehran took its time in announcing that it was building tunnels in the central city of Isfahan to house parts of its uranium enrichment program.
The Security Council sanctions include a ban on Iranian arms exports and the freezing of assets of 28 additional people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Revolutionary Guard, an elite corps whose navy had seized the British sailors.
The sanctions also ask countries to restrict travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, as well as arms sales to Iran and new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.
In rejecting the U.N. sanctions, Iranian officials have indicated they have no intention to suspend uranium enrichment. The country, which owns one of the largest oil supplies in the world, claims it needs the enriched uranium for electricity generating purposes. Mottaki called the use of nuclear materials one of its "inalienable rights."
While the United States and many western governments believe Iran is secretly producing nuclear weapons, the Security Council continues to leave on the table a package of economic incentives and political rewards if Tehran halts enrichment.
Former U.N. nuclear inspector David Albright said Tehran's decision on Sunday enables it to carry out clandestine nuclear work related to enrichment — a possible pathway to nuclear arms.
Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security tracks Iran's nuclear program, said that Iran may be looking to build a "backup facility" for enrichment that would remain undetected.
The Associated Press contributed to this report..