U.S. Ambassador Gregory Schulte was speaking to the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA. The panel is meeting in Vienna today to study a key report to be sent to the Security Council.
The report, drawn up by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammad el-Baradei, says Iran has resumed uranium-enrichment activities in defiance of the international community. But it stopped short of accusing Iran of pursuing a secret drive to build an atomic weapon.
In a statement, Washington said Tehran risks unspecified "consequences" if it does not halt nuclear-research activities. The European Union, likewise, said Iran must halt all nuclear research or face UN Security Council pressure to do so.
Speaking to journalists in Vienna, the Deputy Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Javad Vaidi, warned against Iran's referral to the Security Council for punitive sanctions.
"At this stage we are trying to avoid confrontation," he said. "The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain, but it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So, if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll."
Vaidi added that Iran could review its oil export policies in the future.
(dpa, Reuters, AFP)
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.