Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo) (AFP)
March 21, 2006 -- Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has dismissed again the threat of UN Security Council action over Tehran's nuclear program.
Khamenei said today the country will pursue its ambitions and reject any UN measures aimed at stopping them.
Khamenei made the comments as the five permanent members of the Security Council continued to debate what action to take. Russia and China are reported to have been resisting Western attempts to draw up a sharply worded statement demanding Tehran give up uranium enrichment.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Tehran.
The Big Five members of the Security Council have been debating since last week what action the council should take after the UN nuclear watchdog reported Iran to the body.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said more time is needed for negotiations.
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.