TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday shrugged off a decision by world powers to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its atomic program, saying Tehran would never abandon its "right to exploit peaceful nuclear technology."
The permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany agreed on the referral Wednesday, saying they had given Iran long enough to respond to a package of incentives intended to persuade it to abandon uranium enrichment — a process that can lead to the production of nuclear weapons.
The powers said in Paris they would seek a resolution requiring Iran to suspend its enrichment activities.
"The people of Iran will not give up their right to exploit peaceful nuclear technology," Ahmadinejad said in the northwestern town of Mineh, according to state television. "They are not intimated by the arrogant uproar and propaganda today."
Ahmadinejad added that Iran would continue to negotiate over the direction of its nuclear program, "but that doesn't mean blind obedience to the West."
He reiterated that Iran plans to respond to the incentives package in August.
The package was presented June 6 and the world powers had wanted Iran to respond before the G-8 summit that opens Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia. The United States and the other nations wanted Iran to say whether it would meet terms to begin negotiations on economic and energy incentives in exchange for at least a short-term end to Tehran's program to enrich uranium.
Diplomats said recent meetings with Iran's nuclear negotiator have gone nowhere and it was clear Tehran hoped to play for time or exploit potential divisions among the six powers that have offered new talks.
"I truly think they are trying to wait us out," President Bush said in Stralsund, Germany, at a news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. "And I think they are going to be sorely mistaken. I think they are going to be disappointed, that this coalition is a lot stronger than they think."
Said Merkel: "The door has not been closed but Iran must know that those who have submitted this offer are willing ... to act in concert and to show this clearly through their action in the Security Council."
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin said Iran should respond more quickly to the proposals to end the standoff, but he also cautioned against rushing to punish Tehran.
"We believe that the situation should not be brought to a deadlock to deteriorate it," Putin told German TV broadcaster ZDF, according to the Kremlin transcript.
"We of course would like Iran react quicker. But we also have negative examples of how haste in seeking solutions to other, no less sensitive or difficult issues, also in the same region, led to a situation that no one knows how to get out, that is emerging, say, in Iraq."
At U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Wednesday that the Security Council's first step will be "to make the requirement that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment activities mandatory." He said he expects the council to give Iran "a limited, fixed period of time to do that."
If Iran fails to comply, Bolton said economic penalties would be the next step.
With consultations on a resolution going ahead among council members, "We hope to move as quickly as possible, possibly within the next few days, but realistically early next week," Bolton told reporters.
Though Russia and China signed on to Wednesday's statement, the two traditional commercial partners of Iran previously have opposed imposition of the toughest of sanctions.