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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Iran accuses West of 'psychological war'

PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today accused some big powers of waging psychological warfare against Iran, which is facing the prospect of tougher UN sanctions over its nuclear program.

His televised address to mark the Iranian New Year made clear again that Iran's leadership has no intention of bowing to pressure and halting sensitive nuclear activities, which the United States says is a cover for building atom bombs.

The UN Security Council is discussing a resolution that would impose new penalties on Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment work. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants, or if highly enriched, to make nuclear weapons.

Iran, the world's fourth largest oil exporter, says the program is peaceful and intended to produce electricity.

"By psychological warfare, propaganda and misuse of the organisations they have themselves created ... they are trying to prevent our nation's development," Mr Ahmadinejad said.

He has previously accused the United States and Britain of using the Security Council as a tool against Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad also appeared to hit out at a Hollywood blockbuster called 300 that depicts a 480BC battle between Greeks and Persians. Iranian officials and the public see the film as a Western attempt to vilify Iran's image.

"Today they are trying to tamper with history by making a film and by making Iran's image look savage," he said.

The proposed UN resolution would embargo Iranian arms exports and freeze financial assets abroad of 28 individuals, groups and companies.

It is a follow-up to a previous resolution adopted by the Security Council in December and was expected to be voted on this week after Germany and permanent council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States agreed on the text.

But South Africa, the council's current chair, has called for all the main proposed sanctions to be dropped. The council could probably adopt the measure without South African backing, but the major powers had wanted it passed unanimously.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said amendments proposed by South Africa and Indonesia deserved "attentive consideration".

He also said Russia, which has commercial and political ties to Tehran, would not back "excessive sanctions" against Iran.

Russian officials say they share Western concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran but argue a policy of constructive engagement can prevent this more effectively than one that corners Tehran.

"We earlier agreed to act on Iran gradually and proportionately ... We will not support excessive sanctions," Mr Lavrov told the lower house of Russia's parliament, without specifying what measures Moscow would consider excessive.

He said: "South Africa and Indonesia have proposed amendments which among other things underline the global nature of non-proliferation and we believe these amendments deserve the most attentive consideration."

Earlier this week Russia denied a newspaper report that it had threatened to halt work on building Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station unless Tehran stopped uranium enrichment.

But diplomats in Washington and Europe said Moscow had linked sending Tehran nuclear fuel to proliferation concerns.

Separately, diplomats said Switzerland recently sent a senior official to Iran to discuss a proposal aimed at resolving the nuclear crisis, despite opposition by big Western powers.

The proposal would permit Iran to keep its current uranium enrichment array of several hundred centrifuges. Iran could run the centrifuges but would agree not to feed any processed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into them while it negotiates a package of incentives with six world powers.

Although key Western powers are dismissive, the idea could complicate their drive to ratchet up sanctions on Tehran since both the UN nuclear watchdog and Iran are considering it favourably, the diplomats said.
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