Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says Tehran will not back away from its nuclear aspirations, even if the U.N. Security Council gets involved.
A defiant President Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran will not abandon its nuclear program, even if the matter is referred to the U.N. Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions.
"According to the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Non-Proliferation Treaty, all member states have the right to have access to peaceful nuclear technology," said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke amid growing tensions over the nuclear issue. Iran this week removed the IAEA seals on several nuclear facilities, and resumed nuclear research after a two-year freeze. European diplomats said the move signaled a dead end to their efforts to negotiate a solution to the long-running dispute.
Both the European Union and the United States want the IAEA to refer the matter to the Security Council, although they say, at this point, neither sanctions nor military action are being considered.
Iran's foreign minister says that, if the issue is sent to the Security Council, a recently passed law would force Tehran to end voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, which still has inspectors in Iran.
At a rare news conference Saturday, President Ahmadinejad lashed out at the Western nations that have been leading the criticism, accusing them of waging a propaganda campaign against his country.
He says that Iran is open to discussion, and that the country is abiding by international regulations, including allowing inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Iran's traditional ally, Russia, has quietly indicated its own displeasure over the resumption of nuclear work. Russia says said it will not block referral of the matter to the Security Council, but it also wants to tone down the debate.
When asked whether he feared that Moscow might side against Tehran in the standoff, President Ahmadinejad said countries like Russia need Iran 10 times more than Iran needs them.
Iran is the world's second-leading producer of oil. Iran insists that its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful, and aimed at producing nuclear energy. The United States and the European Union believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.