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Iran threatens to hide nuclear programme

Iran said it will halt relations with the IAEA if sanctions are imposed because of its suspect nuclear drive.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 21:07 IST

Iran said on Tuesday it will halt relations with the UN atomic watchdog if sanctions are imposed because of its suspect nuclear drive and vowed a military attack would merely send its activities underground.

The Islamic regime's national security chief Ali Larijani also refused to rule out using oil as a weapon in the worsening international standoff, warning of "important consequences" for energy supplies if Iran was subjected to "radical measures".

"If you decide to use sanctions against us, our relations with the agency will be suspended," Larijani said of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran for more than three years, and any cut in ties would spell an end to international inspections and monitoring of nuclear facilities inside the Islamic republic.

The warning, made at a conference on nuclear energy in Tehran, came ahead of Friday's deadline set by the UN Security Council for Iran to freeze ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment work.

Iran says it only wants to enrich to make reactor fuel for power plants but the process can be extended to make weapons.

The country's refusal to comply with the Security Council demand -- as well as its promise to expand enrichment work to reach an industrial-scale capacity -- leaves it exposed to the danger of UN sanctions.

The United States has also not ruled out military action.

"Military action against Iran will not lead to the closure of the programme," Larijani said. "If you take harsh measures, we will hide this programme. Then you cannot solve the nuclear issue.

"You may inflict a loss on us but you will lose also," he warned.

Iran is the world's fourth largest crude producer and the second-biggest in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Tensions over the country's nuclear drive have already helped push crude prices to record highs.

"Iran will not start a crisis," Larijani told reporters when asked if the country would use its vast oil reserves as a weapon in the dispute.

"But if we are subjected to radical measures, that will automatically have important consequences for oil," he added.

And in a meeting with visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic republic was ready to "transfer" its nuclear technology to other countries, state media reported.

"The nuclear capability of Iranian scientists is one example of the numerous scientific movements in the country, and the Islamic republic is ready to transfer this experience and the technology and knowledge of its scientists," state television quoted the leader as saying.

The fresh barrage of threats came the day after hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that Iran could quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but nonetheless confidently dismissed any threat of sanctions or even a US attack.

"The agenda is to reinforce our diplomatic effort," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on a visit to Athens.

"The US president does not take any options off the table but we are on a diplomatic course here, that is the agenda that we are pursuing," she said, adding that "the Iranians can threaten, but they are deepening their own isolation."

At the United Nations in New York, US ambassador John Bolton said the Security Council was to consider a draft resolution that would legally require Iran to comply with demands that it freeze all uranium enrichment activities.

This would use Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which is invoked in case of threats to international peace and security, and can open the door to sanctions or even military action.

Iran's war of words with Israel also worsened, with the Jewish state's former premier Shimon Peres comparing Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler.

"This is the first man since Hitler to stand up and say that the Jewish people must be exterminated," the Nobel peace prize winner said as the Jewish state observed a day of remembrance for victims of the Nazi genocide.

Ahmadinejad, who has dismissed the Holocaust as a "myth", had on Monday asserted that the "fake" Jewish state "cannot survive" and called on immigrants to the country to go back to where they came from.

China meanwhile insisted the nuclear issue could still be resolved through negotiations, and called on all sides to show "flexibility".

"We believe, in the current stage, there is still room to resolve this issue through negotiations," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.