| President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Mashhad, Iran. (AFP)
Tehran, April 12 (Reuters): The world’s leading powers, including Russia and China, joined to condemn Iran today for advancing its atomic programme in defiance of the UN, but Moscow said force could not resolve the dispute.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared yesterday that Iran had produced its first batch of enriched uranium and would now press ahead with industrial-scale enrichment.
His announcement kept Tehran on a collision course with the UN and with western countries convinced Iran seeks atomic arms, not just fuel for power stations as it insists.
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said the UN Security Council, which last month told Tehran to halt all enrichment work, would need to take up the issue again.
When the council reconvenes, Rice said, it should take “strong steps to make certain (to) maintain the credibility of the international community”.
She did not say what those steps might be, but her spokesman, Sean McCormack, said they would be stronger than the presidential statement already issued by the Security Council.
Asked about the possibility of sanctions on Iran, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “That’s a possibility as well, that’s one option that’s available.” Russia and China, key players on the Iran issue with veto rights at the Security Council, have hitherto opposed sanctions.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the use of force could not solve the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme.
“If such plans exist they will not be able to solve this problem. On the contrary they could create a dangerous explosive blaze in West Asia, where there are already enough blazes,” he said.
President George W. Bush this week dismissed media reports of plans for strikes on Iran as “wild speculation” and said force might not be needed to curb its nuclear ambitions.
China’s UN ambassador Wang Guangya said Tehran’s enrichment move was “not in line with what is required of them by the international community”. Russia’s foreign ministry urged Iran to stop all enrichment work.