Iran defiant as UN talks fail

Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 00:00

The UN nuclear watchdog ended its latest mission to Iran after talks on Tehran's suspected secret atomic weapons research failed, a setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with the West

In a defiant response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's nuclear policies would not change despite mounting international pressure against what the West says are Iran's plans to obtain nuclear bombs.

"With God's help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran's nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously," he said on state television. "Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran's nuclear work."

As sanctions mount, ordinary Iranians are suffering from the effects of soaring prices and a collapsing currency. Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed over the past two years in bomb attacks that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The collapse of the nuclear talks came as Iran seems increasingly isolated, with some experts seeing the Islamic republic's mounting defiance in response to sanctions against its oil industry and financial institutions as evidence that it is in no mood to compromise with the West.

Elections on March 2nd are expected to be won by supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei, an implacable enemy of the West.

The failure of the two-day visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could now hamper any resumption of wider nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers. A team from the agency had hoped to inspect a site at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, where the agency believes there is a facility to test explosives.

"During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place," the Vienna-based agency said in a statement.

"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin. We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached," said director general Yukiya Amano.

Iran rejects accusations that its nuclear programme is a covert bid to develop a nuclear weapons capability, saying it is seeking to produce only electricity. But its refusal to curb sensitive atomic activities which can have both civilian and military purposes, and its record of years of nuclear secrecy has drawn increasingly tough UN and separate US and European measures.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out using force against Iran if they conclude that diplomacy and sanctions will not stop it from developing a nuclear bomb.

"This was only to be expected, given Iran's evasions," a senior Israeli official said. The failure of the IAEA's mission may increase the chances of a strike by Israel on Iran.

Meanwhile Russian warned Israel today not to attack Iran over its nuclear programme, saying military action would have catastrophic consequences.

"Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations," said deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov.

"Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences... and they should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves," Mr Gatilov said at a news conference.