Iran faults US on test, vows to keep nuclear program

By Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press / October 11, 2006

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TEHRAN -- Iran took a tough line on its nuclear program yesterday, blaming Washington for North Korea's reported test blast and vowing to keep developing its own suspect atomic program.

Iran appeared emboldened by North Korea's defiance as its Islamic leaders pledged not to bow to international demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

``The Iranian nation will continue its path of dignity based on resistance, wisdom and without fear," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on state-run television.

Iran also stood apart yesterday from the widespread international condemnation of North Korea.

Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters that Iran opposed ``any use of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons." But he did not criticize North Korea and instead faulted the United States for the test.

``The root cause of this should be sought in the policy, behavior and method adopted by the rulers of the United States," Elham said.

The UN Security Council has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment because of suspicions Tehran is trying to develop atomic weapons in violation of its treaty commitments. Iran ignored the council's Aug. 31 deadline despite a threat of sanctions.

Enriched uranium is a key component for nuclear bombs. But it also can be used to fuel nuclear reactors that generate electricity .

Israeli officials said yesterday they feared the North Korean test would set a dangerous precedent and the communist country would transfer materials and technology for the development of nuclear weapons to Iran, whose president has said the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.

Iran has long refused to comment on its close relationship with North Korea. Western intelligence agencies have reported that Iran's Shahab-3 missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, is based on a North Korean rocket. But Iran denies this.

Many Iranian newspapers voiced sympathy yesterday for the North Korean regime. The hard-line Resalat newspaper said in an editorial that Washington's ``expansionist policies make the world such a dangerous place, it is to be expected that countries seek such weapons as a deterrence."

But the moderate independent newspaper Hambastegi criticized North Korea. The paper ran a cartoon showing that country's leader, Kim Jong Il, holding a bomb in one hand and saying to the world: ``Why can't we be friends? Give me your wallet."