Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki at a UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on March 30 (epa)
March 31, 2006 -- Iran's Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki says Iran will not use oil as a weapon in the dispute over its nuclear program.
Speaking in Geneva today, Mottaki reiterated Iran's stance that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
On March 30, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, together with Germany, demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities or face isolation.
Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for power stations or atomic bombs.
Mohammed el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on March 31 that Iran's nuclear program posed no immediate threat.
In comments also made on March 31, Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said the Security Council should consider sanctions if Iran refuses to cooperate.
But he added that the issue could still be resolved diplomatically.
(compiled from agency reports)
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.