Iran warns against military action; White House says nuclear report ‘alarming’

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Iran “will respond with full force” to any attack − or even any threat of military action − the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told students at a Tehran military college Thursday.

“The enemies, especially America and its stooges and the Zionist regime (Israel), should know that it is not Iran’s custom to invade any country or nation. But it will respond with full force to any aggression or even threats in a way that will demolish the aggressors from within,” he said, according to a statement on his official website.

Khamenei’s forceful language followed threats last week from Israel that air strikes could be in the offing against Iran’s nuclear sites. Israeli President Shimon Peres said last weekend that such action was becoming “more and more likely.”

Later on Thursday, the White House commented on this week’s International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear program was “very alarming” and said it would continue to pressure Tehran to “change its behavior.”

“They need to get right with the world and live up to their obligations with regards to their nuclear program. We will continue to pursue that going forward in the wake of this very alarming report,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Ban Ki-moon, Panetta advise against strike

But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Tehran in an apparent reaction to speculation that Israel might attack Iran's atomic facilities.

“He (Ban) reiterates his call for Iran's compliance with all relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters, according to Reuters.

“The secretary-general reiterates his belief that a negotiated rather than a military solution is the only way to resolve this issue,” he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday also advised against military action, warning of the risks from any military strike on Iran. He said a strike could have a “serious impact” on the region without halting Tehran’s nuclear program.

“You’ve got to be careful of unintended consequences here. And those consequences could involve not only not really deterring Iran from what they want to do, but more importantly it could have a serious impact on the region and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region,” Panetta told a news conference.

Rhetoric between Iran and its two principal foes, Israel and the United States, has also risen since the release Tuesday of a U.N. report saying there was “credible” evidence suggesting Iran’s atomic program was being used to research putting nuclear warheads in ballistic missiles. Iran denounced the U.N. inspectors’ report as “unbalanced” and “politically motivated.”

“The Revolutionary Guards and army and our nation ... will answer attacks with strong slaps and iron fists,” he said.

Last week Israel test-launched a long-range missile near Tel Aviv.

Israel on Wednesday called on the world to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons while Western powers called for heavier sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The United States and European allies say Iran is trying to build bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear program. The major oil producer denies this, saying it needs nuclear technology to improve its electricity supply for a rapidly growing population.

Israel, which Iran refuses to recognize, sees a nuclear Iran as a threat to its existence and has said all options are on the table in confronting Tehran, including a military one. But it remains publicly committed to a world power strategy of increased diplomatic pressure and sanctions against Iran.

Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak atomic reactor in 1981 and carried out a similar strike in Syria in 2007.

The Revolutionary Guards and army and our nation ... will answer attacks with strong slaps and iron fists

Iran supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Fresh EU sanctions


The European Union, meanwhile, is preparing to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran after the U.N. atomic agency report findings.

France and Britain have called for “new powerful sanctions” unless Iran cooperates over its nuclear program, but the diplomats said the measures would likely not be finalized in time for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

EU leaders already paved the way for more sanctions at an October 23 summit when they tasked their foreign ministers with preparing new restrictive measures.

Although the ministers could discuss the sanctions in Brussels on Monday, it would be too soon to adopt new measures, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

The new sanctions could be adopted at their next meeting in Brussels on December 1, a diplomat said. The measures could target the Iranian central bank or the country’s vital oil revenues.

“But if the new sanctions are ready before December 1, they can be adopted quicker through other procedures,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The issue was on the agenda of a meeting of experts from the 27-nation EU in Brussels on Thursday.

Russian assistance

Russia, meanwhile, is ready to build more nuclear reactors in Iran, its nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko said Thursday despite international fears over Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.

“We are looking into it, we have the orders, so we are working this proposal through, since building specifically nuclear reactors is not an issue of doubt in the international community,” said Kiriyenko, who heads the Rosatom state corporation.

“It’s not related to sensitive issues, so it is entirely possible,” Kiriyenko told a government meeting, noting that Iran has expressed a desire to continue building nuclear reactors.

Russia has recently completed the construction of Iran’s first nuclear plant in the southern port of Bushehr and has been Tehran’s economic partner despite complying with UN sanctions and delaying a delivery of air-defense weapons.

The Bushehr plant began operation this year despite early objections from the United States, and is expected to reach full 1,000 megawatt capacity in March. Russia will also supply the fuel to Bushehr.

Moscow has attempted to play a mediator role in the past in the Iranian crisis, presenting in August a step-by-step plan to ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for greater transparency of its program.