Iran says it "will not budge an iota" from its nuclear program, rejecting a United Nations report
strongly suggesting Tehran is engaged in nuclear weapons development.
In a speech addressing thousands of people in the central city of Shahr-e Kord and broadcast live on state television on November 9, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad suggested that the UN's nuclear watchdog had discredited itself by siding with what he maintained were dubious U.S. claims that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
"Why do you damage the agency's dignity because of America's empty claims?" he said. "It will be in your interest to be a friend of the Iranian nation. History has shown that Iran's enemies have not tasted glory and victory."
"We do not need an atomic bomb," Ahmadinejad added. "The Iranian nation is wise. It won't build two atomic bombs while you have 20,000 warheads. This nation will build something that you will not be able to match, and it will be morality."
In its latest report on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it has information indicating that the Islamic republic has carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
This was the first time that the UN agency has directly tied Iran's nuclear program to weapons production.
On top of existing UN, U.S., and EU sanctions, France and U.S. lawmakers threatened to extend measures against Iran following the report.
France called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss possible action against Iran.
In a statement, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris stands ready to adopt sanctions on “an unprecedented scale” if Iran refuses to abide by the demands of the international community.
Report 'Aggravates Existing Concerns'
Juppe also made similar calls on French radio station Radio France International.
"Firstly, we think the [IAEA] board of governors must explicitly condemn Iran's conduct," he said. "I think convening the Security Council is also called for. France is ready, with others, to go one step forward with sanctions, which already exist but must be reinforced to force Iran to yield."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the IAEA report "alarming" and said in the case of Iranian intransigence, "more severe sanctions would be inevitable."
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
In Brussels, Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, told RFE/RL that the IAEA's findings "strongly indicated that there is an existence of a full-fledged nuclear weapons development program in Iran."
"The report actually seriously aggravates existing concerns on the nature of the Iranian nuclear program," she said. "This report, as you know, puts particular emphasis on information that was corroborated by the IAEA regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program."
Ashton has been representing six world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- in stalled negotiations with Iran.
A request for comment from the IAEA was declined. A spokesperson said Director-General Yukia Amano plans to speak to the press next week, when the report is released publicly.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said almost nothing about the IAEA findings in his daily briefing to reporters, in keeping with the Obama administration's decidedly muted response to the report's release. Asked if President Barack Obama is considering additional sanctions against Iran, Carney downplayed White House discussions.
"Obviously, he's had a lot of internal discussions on it -- well, not a lot. He's been briefed on it and it's been discussed here," Carney said. "I don't have any other conversations to report or any predictions to make about steps that we might take in our efforts to further isolate and pressure Iran to change its behavior in regards to its nuclear program."
U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Congress should "ratchet up the pressure" with new sanctions legislation to "cripple" Iran's ability to pursue its nuclear program.
Republican Senator Mark Kirk called for Washington to take steps toward "collapsing the central bank of Iran" in light of the report.
Path To More UN Sanctions Could Be Complicated
The State Department said Washington would have no comment until it had time to study the report.
The path to more UN sanctions on Iran could be complicated, however, with Russia and China expressing reservations about the publication of the IAEA report.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was studying the report, adding that "avoiding fresh turmoil in the Middle Eastern security environment is important for both the region and for the international community."
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (center) inspecting the Natanz nuclear plant in central Iran
Hong Lei also called for “peaceful means to resolve the Iran nuclear issue:”
"The IAEA should adopt an impartial and objective stance and actively work on clarifying certain issues with Iran through cooperation," he said. "The Iranian side should also demonstrate flexibility and sincerity and engage in serious cooperation with the agency."
Russia Critical Of Report's Publication
Russia criticized the report's public release, suggesting it could harm chances for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.
In a statement the Foreign Ministry said, "We have serious doubts about the justification for steps to reveal the contents of the report to a broad public, primarily because it is precisely now that certain chances for the renewal of dialogue between the 'sextet' of international mediators and Tehran have begun to appear."
In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Russia would not support new, tougher sanctions against Tehran.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "The significance of the report is that the international community must bring about the cessation of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, which endanger the peace of the world and of the Middle East."
Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister and head of the main opposition Kadima party, said on November 9 that Israel "expect(s) the international community, the free world, to stop Iran and prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon."
"Now after the [IAEA] report the facts are clear," Livni said. "The world knows where Iran is going and the world needs to stop Iran. Iran threatens not only the interests of the free world but the values of the free world."
Israeli President Shimon Peres recently warned that an attack on Iran was becoming "more and more likely."
France, Germany, and Russia have spoken against the possibility of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
compiled from agency reports