Iran Shrugs Off Pressure Over Nuclear Program

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday shrugged off increased international pressure over Iran's disputed nuclear program, saying it would not cause his country any harm.

The United States and Europe are pressing Iran to quickly respond to a package of incentives to give up uranium enrichment and resume negotiations with the West over its nuclear ambitions.

Ahmadinejad has said Tehran is studying the proposals and will reply by mid-August. European and U.S. officials have called for an answer in mid-July.

"Iran has got used to existing under repressed condition in the past 27 years. It would not suffer any more in the case of increased pressure," Ahmadinejad said Monday after meeting Britain's new ambassador to Tehran, according to state TV.

CountryWatch: Iran

Ahmadinejad said Britain could have a constructive, honest and active participation in the case if it applies a new approach, the television said.

Iranian officials said Sunday that the West must be patient and wait for the government to study all aspects of the offer. Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh threatened that "if the country's interests are attacked, we will use oil as a weapon."

The package, given to Iran on June 6, offers a series of economic incentives as well as U.S. and European nuclear technology if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment, a key process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a warhead.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to produce a nuclear weapon, a claim Tehran denies, saying it intends only to generate electricity.

Iran has said it will not give up enrichment completely but indicated it may temporarily suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions.

Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil exporter and the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Islamic republic exports about 2.5 million barrels a day.

This was the second time in a month that Iran threatened to disrupt the world's oil supply if Tehran is punished over its nuclear program.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also said the United States and its allies would be unable to secure oil shipments passing out of the Persian Gulf through the strategic Strait of Hormuz to the world markets if the Islamic country's interests were jeopardized.