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IAEA referral stokes Iranian defiance

Iran says nuclear activities will resume without inspections
Nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi says Iran will resume nuclear activites and end international cooperation.


Was the IAEA right to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program?
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Condoleezza Rice

VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday followed through on his threat to cease all cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, the nation's state-run media, IRNA, reported.

The move, intended as retaliation for the agency referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council, means the country will begin enriching uranium and put an end to impromptu inspections of its nuclear facilities, IRNA reported.

Iran has said it is pursuing nuclear research for peaceful purposes. The United States and other countries accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad issued the orders in a letter to Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Iranian television reported.

In a 27-3 vote, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution Saturday to report Iran to the Security Council. Syria, Venezuela and Cuba voted against the resolution.

China and Russia were skeptical of referring a key trade partner to the Security Council until language was included stating that no action would be taken against Iran -- including sanctions -- until IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei presents a report on the nation's nuclear activities next month.

China and Russia, both members of the Security Council, have said they prefer to resolve the situation through diplomatic means and that sanctions would be counterproductive.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the IAEA decision and said in a statement that the lopsided vote "underscores the concern of the entire international community about Iran's nuclear program."

"The world will not stand by if Iran continues on the path to a nuclear weapons capability," she said, adding that Iran "must suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, cooperate fully with the IAEA and return to the negotiating process based on the previously agreed terms."

Echoing his president's words, an official with the Iranian nuclear negotiating team said the Islamic republic would do the exact opposite. Nuclear programs will resume without restriction, and Iran will no longer allow unannounced inspections of its facilities, Javad Vaeedi said.

"This resolution is politically motivated, since it is not based on any legal or technical grounds," he said.

Vaeedi added that the resolution was more a message from the Western bloc of countries than a "serious signal" from the international community.

Several Iranian officials, including Ahmadinejad, have threatened to respond this way if Iran's nuclear dossier was turned over to the Security Council. On Thursday, the nation's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, wrote a letter to ElBaradei stating as much.

The IAEA has stated that it wants Iran to prove its nuclear intentions are peaceful. But Iran has said that its voluntary suspension of the uranium-enrichment program and its agreement to unannounced inspections should have been enough to secure international trust.

Resolution calls on 'access'

Saturday's resolution gives Iran a 30-day "window of opportunity" to consider proposals that would prove its nuclear ambitions are peaceful, ElBaradei said.

Among those is a Russian plan to enrich uranium for Iran, which ElBaradei called "a very attractive option."

However, Ahmadinejad already has essentially nixed the proposal, saying Iran shouldn't have to rely on Russia for nuclear fuel and that it resents the idea of having to pay exorbitant prices for it, IRNA reported.

"Even if we accepted such a proposal, what should we do if one day they fail to supply us with our required nuclear fuel?" Ahmadinejad asked.

Saturday's resolution lays out steps on how Iran can prove its program is for peaceful means, including re-establishing "full and sustained suspension of nuclear-related activities;" reconsidering the construction of a heavy-water research reactor; allowing inspections of nuclear facilities; and permitting "access to individuals and documents."

Following passage of the resolution, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Iran has its fate in its own hands. But he was not optimistic that Tehran "will do the right thing."

"Iran is not a country that feels any obligation to the world community," Burns said. "But they cannot now simply go forward. There is now a diplomatic noose around its neck."

Military action still on table

The IAEA resolution was a hot topic at the annual security conference in Munich, Germany, as several leaders, including an Iranian representative, issued statements.

U.S. Sen John McCain, R-Arizona, said military action is the last option for resolving the crisis, but it can't be ruled out if all diplomatic efforts fail.

McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that if Iran gained nuclear weapons, it would destabilize the entire Middle East, especially since Ahmadinejad's recent comments that Israel should be wiped off the map indicate that Iran is "dedicated to the extinction of their neighbor."

"It's a very bad option. It's the worst of all options except for allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons," McCain said. "We will exhaust all possible options before seriously considering the military option, but it cannot be taken off the table."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also took issue with Iran's anti-Semitic remarks of late, even saying that the Holocaust could've been avoided if people weren't so complacent, according to Reuters.

"Looking back to German history in the early 1930s when National Socialism was on the rise, there were many outside Germany who said, 'It's only rhetoric -- don't get excited,' " Reuters quoted Merkel as saying.

She added, "A president who questions Israel's right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany."

The Iranian representative at the conference, Abbas Aragchi of the Foreign Ministry, responded that his country had cooperated with the IAEA for three years, to no avail. He added that Israel possesses scores of nuclear weapons, a claim the Israeli government has never acknowledged.

"There is a country in our region with more than 200 nuclear warheads, with a background of violation of Security Council resolutions, with a background of occupation of others' land, with violation of human rights of Palestinians," Aragchi said. "This is not considered a threat? But lab-scale nuclear activity for peaceful purposes -- that we have always declared -- should be considered a red line, as a threat?"

The situation could've been resolved through diplomacy, but Iranian parliamentary law requires the nation to halt any negotiations if it is referred to the Security Council, meaning "escalation of the dispute," Aragchi added.

Merkel said Iran needs to change its laws.

CNN's Matthew Chance, Elise Labott, Richard Roth and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

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