Iran might deny access to international nuclear inspectors if the Security Council is pressed by Washington and its allies to apply sanctions, Ahmadinejad told the English-language daily Khaleej Times for its Saturday edition.

"If Iran's case is sent to the Security Council, we will respond by many ways, for example by holding back on oil sales or limiting inspections of our nuclear facilities," Ahmadinejad said.

The Dubai-based newspaper said the Iranian president made his remarks in answer to a question on what his response would be if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) turned Iran's case over to the Security Council, possibly leading to sanctions.

Ahmadinejad reiterated Iran's position that Tehran had the right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy but there was no question of using that technology to make weapons, as Iran was governed by Islamic principles which prohibit production or use of nuclear weapons.

The IAEA found Iran to be in non-
compliance
with atomic safeguards

"Our religion prohibits us from having nuclear arms and our religious leader has prohibited it from the point of view of religious law," he said.

Asked about reported threats by some Iranian officials of triggering a rise in oil prices and pulling out of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Ahmadinejad said that "any smart human being should use every resource in order to achieve his independence".

Former president

Earlier, former president and 2005 failed presidential contender Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani urged restraint in the nuclear standoff with the West.

In a sermon to worshippers at Tehran University on Friday, he said the dispute surrounding allegations Iran was seeking nuclear weapons was "very serious" and called on the government to show "patience and wisdom".

"It is about diplomacy rather than slogans," said Rafsanjani, a former two-term president.

"It is about being reasonable, negotiating and being diplomatically active. All methods of leverage should be used, but reasonably, with patience and wisdom, without provocation and slogans that give pretexts to the enemies."

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani urged
wisdom from both sides (file)

His comments were the first time any senior official has signalled reservations over how the government is handling the nuclear issue.

Rafsanjani attempted a comeback as president in June on a moderate platform that included a call to improve ties with the West.

He had said it was time for Iran and United States to repair ties, a view not shared by the election winner, Ahmadinejad.

The IAEA last week adopted a resolution that finds Iran in "non-compliance" with nuclear proliferation safeguards, an automatic trigger for taking the matter to the Security Council.

"Determined and explicit, they say Iran must not have the fuel cycle, but we must also be determined and explicit and say that we should have it," Rafsanjani said.

"They claim that they are not sure if Iran will pursue militarism in nuclear technology. We should practically prove that Iran is not seeking this. This is a matter of negotiations and diplomacy," he said.

The US and Europeans, he said, also needed to "act reasonably and wisely".