Vol. 5 Num 1022 Tue. April 17, 2007  
Front Page

Iran says it won't back down on nuke
No plan to attack Iran, says US naval chief

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed yesterday that Iran would not give in to Western demands over its nuclear drive, saying Tehran would "resist to the end" in the intensifying crisis.

"The Iranian people will resist until the end on acquiring their rights and will not shift an inch," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the southern city of Shiraz broadcast live on state television.

"The Iranian nation will not be dissuaded in its drive and the Iranian nation is standing united on this," he told thousands of cheering people gathered in a sports stadium for the rally.

Ahmadinejad's remarks appear to confirm that Iran has no intention of yielding to international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment work, a process the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Tehran just last week said that its uranium enrichment work was now at an "industrial scale," although international observers have cast doubt over what stage its nuclear programme has reached.

"The Iranian people will stand firm on the nuclear issue to acquire all their rights, will continue solidly to reach the summits of perfection and will raise their fists to insist on their rights," Ahmadinejad told the crowd.

In a typically pugnacious speech -- his first such public address since the crisis with Britain over the 15 captured navy personnel -- Ahmadinejad also warned world powers not to misuse the UN Security Council.

"Do not misuse the international organisations that you yourself have built. You cannot create a crack in the will of the Iranian people.

"Give up your bullying methods! Otherwise rest assured that you will lose and you will impose great losses on your nations. What did you gain in Iraq, what did you gain in Palestine and Lebanon?" he asked.

The UN Security Council has already imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, and the Islamic republic faces further punitive measures if it does not comply.

"Follow the path of justice and improve your relations with others," Ahmadinejad admonished the Western powers.

The United States has refused to rule out the option of military action to bring Iran to heel should sanctions fail to work. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The Iranian army's top commander warned on Monday that any aggressor would be "destroyed" by Iran.

"We intend no harm to others, but if they want to harm us we will destroy the enemy and the enemy knows this," Attaollah Salehi said.

Despite Iran's announcement last week that its nuclear programme has reached an industrial level, it has still not disclosed how many centrifuges it has installed to enrich uranium at a nuclear plant in Natanz.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei said last week Iran still had installed only "hundreds" of centrifuges at Natanz, well short of its medium-term goal of 3,000.

Iran's foreign ministry replied on Sunday that ElBaradei would know the exact progress of Iran's nuclear programme when IAEA inspectors return home from an ongoing regular inspection visit.

Russia has said it has seen no sign that Iran has made any breakthrough in its nuclear programme "that would change the character of the work in the field of enrichment."

A Russian contractor is building Iran's first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr.

Meanwhile, the United States has no plans to attack Iran and its beefed-up naval presence in the Gulf region is meant to keep the area peaceful, the chief of US naval operations said Monday.

Admiral Michael Mullen, who is visiting key US ally Pakistan for talks with officials, said efforts were focused on a diplomatic solution to resolve the ongoing row over Tehran's nuclear programme.

"There is no plan for an attack on Iran," Mullen told reporters after the talks.

"We've had a strong naval presence in this part of the world for many, many decades. We recently added some ships that are meant to provide reassurances to our friends, to show continued commitment to the area," Mullen said.

"This is a vital region and the goal is to provide the strength and stability that we need to ensure that it remains quiet and peaceful.

"So there is absolutely no plan that I am aware of that involves an attack on Iran."

The US has two aircraft carriers in the Gulf, the highest level US naval presence in the strategic oil shipping channel since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.