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Iran Says It Would Respond To Any New Sanctions

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad: "Sanctions will not harm Iran."

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad: "Sanctions will not harm Iran."

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said today that any country which tried to impose new sanctions on Iran would regret its actions, and talks were still going on over a proposed nuclear fuel swap.

He was speaking a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a Gulf tour sought backing from oil giant Saudi Arabia to help win Chinese support for additional sanctions.

Clinton said a new round of sanctions should target Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which she said were driving the Islamic republic toward a military dictatorship.

"Of course, if somebody acts against Iran our response will definitely be firm enough...[to] make them regretful," Ahmadinejad told a televised news conference, without elaborating.

"Sanctions will not harm Iran," he said.

He also dismissed Clinton's comments about the Revolutionary Guards.

"We don't take her comments seriously," Ahmadinejad said, adding that the entire Iranian population of more than 70 million were protecting Iran's independence and its Islamic revolution. He said the United States had some 300,000 troops stationed in the Middle East and was involved in wars in the region.

"These comments she is making are not wise," Ahmadinejad added.

Ahmadinejad said talks were still under way on a proposed nuclear fuel swap and the issue was not yet closed.

Western powers had hoped the proposal, brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, would result in Iran sending most of its low-enriched uranium abroad for processing, and ease their concerns that it might build a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its nuclear program is solely to generate electricity so it can export more of its oil and gas.

"There are some talks under way over the nuclear fuel swap," he told a televised news conference, without giving details. "The case is not yet closed...We have already announced that we are ready for a fuel exchange within a fair framework."

He added: "We are still ready for an exchange, even with America."

Ahmadinejad's order last week to start production of higher-grade uranium, rather than agree to the UN-brokered fuel swap proposal, exposes Tehran to new calls for UN sanctions from Western powers.

The Kremlin said today that Iran could face sanctions if it failed to allay international fears about its nuclear program, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to Moscow, called for "paralyzing sanctions" on Iran.

Ahmadinejad said Iran had been willing to send its uranium abroad rather than enrich it further at home. "But...we found that there is no goodwill in this regard and we told them that if they don't provide us [with the fuel] in due time we would start work inside [Iran]."

"And even now, if they provide us with the necessary fuel the conditions will be changed," Ahmadinejad said.