Iran will not retreat “an iota” from its nuclear programme and the world is being misled by claims that it is seeking nuclear weapons, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said.
Ahmadinejad was speaking on Wednesday in response to a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, which alleged that Iran was close to developing a nuclear warhead.
“This nation won’t retreat one iota from the path it is going,” he told thousands of people who had gathered in Shahr-e-Kord, central Iran, reiterating that the country was pursuing nuclear research only for peaceful purposes.
“Why are you ruining the prestige of the [UN nuclear] agency for absurd US claims?”
A 13-page annex to the IAEA’s report, released on Tuesday, included claims that while some of Iran’s nuclear development activity was aimed at civilian as well as military applications, others were “specific to nuclear weapons”.
|Al Jazeera speaks to Justin Dargin, a nuclear analyst about the specific allegations in the IAEA report|
The IAEA said that there were indications that Iran had conducted high explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge, as well as computer modelling of a nuclear warhead.
The report said that preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test was under way, along with development of a nuclear payload for Iran’s Shahab-III intermediate range missile and that the country has begun to move low-enriched uranium (LEU) to an underground facility to further its nuclear research.
The report also said that Iran had installed two sets of 174 machines to refine uranium to a fissile purity of 20 per cent (as opposed to the 3.5 per cent required for normal power plant operations) at Fordow, near the city of Qom, but that these machines were not yet operational.
Iran says that it will use the higher-grade enriched uranium to convert into fuel for a research reactor that would make isotopes to treat cancer patients.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad reiterated previous statements in which he had said that Iran saw no point in developing nuclear weapons.
“The Iranian nation is wise. It won’t build two bombs against 20,000 [nuclear] bombs you have,” he said in comments apparently directed at the US and others.
|Iran insists that its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes and that the IAEA report is false|
Much of the information in the IAEA report was repeated from earlier alleged findings, but some was new, including evidence of a large metal chamber at a military site for nuclear-related explosives testing.
Iran said the metal structure was a set of metal toilet stalls.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said that Iranian officials did not consider any of the information in the IAEA report credible.
“They are saying that… it is not accurate, and that they have already responded to it in the past,” she said.
“According to sources that looked at this report, the IAEA’s evidence is based on a laptop that was stolen from an Iranian nuclear scientist in 2004.
“[Iran] is asking where this evidence came from, when it was presented to the IAEA and how they obtained it.”
Jabbari said that Iranian officials were now reconsidering the country’s relationship with the IAEA, as their position was that they had complied with all of the agency’s requirements and yet were facing recycled charges.
The US and its allies claim that nuclear weapons would enable Iran to cause a nuclear arms race among rival states in the region, including Saudi Arabia, and would directly threaten Israel – the Middle East’s only known country armed with nuclear weapons.
The US would “consult (with allies and partners) and look at ways to impose additional pressure on Iran” and was considering “a range of options”, Mark Toner, a White House spokesman told reporters.
“I don’t want to rule anything out or anything in,” he said, adding that unilateral sanctions were a possibility.
The European Union reacted to the report on Wednesday by saying that it “seriously aggravates” concerns that Iran possesses a “full-fledged” nuclear weapons programme.
The 27-member bloc will consult internally and with partners in order “to work for an adequate reaction” to the report, said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Inside Story examines the regional tensions around Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme
“Overall these findings strongly indicate the existence of a full-fledged nuclear weapons development programme in Iran”, Kocijancic said.
Israel, the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power, urged the international community to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
“The significance of the (IAEA) 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,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
But Russia, which criticised the IAEA report, said that it would not support additional sanctions.
“Any additional sanctions against Iran will be seen in the international community as an instrument for regime change in Iran,” Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said. “That approach is unacceptable to us, and the Russian side does not intend to consider such proposals.”
China said on Wednesday that it was still studying the IAEA report, and the foreign ministry called on Iran to be “serious and flexible” on the issue of talks.
“At present we believe that all parties should do more to facilitate dialogue and cooperation,” Hong Lei, a foreign ministry spokesperson, said at a news briefing.