Iran vows to stick to nuclear 'path'
'We do not underestimate any enemy, no matter how
tiny and lowly they are':
IRAN: Iran declared on Monday it will not be swayed from its
nuclear "path" by sanctions, a week before talks with world powers that
are increasingly seen as a last chance for diplomacy in its showdown
with the West. "The sanctions may have caused us small problems but we
will continue our path," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi vowed in an
interview with the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
"We do not underestimate any enemy, no matter how tiny and lowly they
are. The regime's officials -- the supreme leader, the president, the
army, the (Revolutionary) Guards and Basij (militia) -- are completely
vigilant. And the nation is prepared to defend the achievements of
Islamic Iran," he said.
The defiant words came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
said on Saturday that the talks between Iran and the world powers would
take place April 13 and 14 in Istanbul.
She and US President Barack Obama have both publicly said that the
window for diplomacy in the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme is
"Our policy is one of prevention, not containment," Clinton said in
Saudi Arabia after talks with her Gulf Arab counterparts. "It is
incumbent upon Iran to demonstrate by its actions that it is a willing
partner and to participate in these negotiations with an effort to
obtain concrete results," Clinton said.
Israel and the United States have threatened military strikes against
Iran's nuclear facilities if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb the
Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.
The UN Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions of Iran
because of suspicions over its nuclear programme, which the West and
Israel believe includes a drive to develop atomic weapons capability.
Iran denies any military dimension to its nuclear activities. Its
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called nuclear weapons a
"sin". But he has also refused to bow to sanctions, and warned Iran
would retaliate in kind if attacked.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in an interview
with the Fars news agency that Iran considered the talk of war to be a
"psychological" gambit "to affect the Iranian nation, to lower the
support of the people for the system." But, he said, "our readiness (to
ward off any threat) is at its peak. We take any threat, even those with
a low probability of happening, seriously.
"If any practical action, either surgical or long-lasting, is taken,
we will respond decisively."
The talks between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the five permanent UN
Security Council members plus Germany -- are seen as an opportunity to
defuse the tense situation.
EU officials in Brussels said that, despite Clinton's affirmation,
Istanbul had not yet been fully confirmed as the venue. "The talks are
scheduled to start late on the 13th and will be held primarily on the
14th," one EU diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
They will "very likely" take place in Istanbul, but all parties had
not yet reached complete agreement, the diplomat said.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who
represents the P5+1, said only: "We will announce it (the venue)
formally once we have full agreement."