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Iran calls US threat to pursue sanctions `bullying'

TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday that a US threat to form an independent coalition to impose sanctions if the UN Security Council failed to act to curb Tehran's nuclear program was an insult to the world body.

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has indicated that Washington is prepared to act independently with close allies to freeze Iranian assets and restrict trade if the council did not do so. The Los Angeles Times first reported his comments on Saturday.

Washington has previously called for a swift response if Iran does not heed the Security Council's Thursday deadline to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for reactors or material for warheads.

Yesterday, the Bush administration confirmed that it will introduce a Security Council resolution seeking sanctions against Iran.

But Bolton has said Washington is working on a parallel diplomatic track outside the United Nations in case Russia and China do not accept the resolution, according to the Los Angeles Times.

``You don't need Security Council authority to impose sanctions, just as we have," Bolton was quoted as saying.

``These remarks [by Bolton] are an obvious insult to the Security Council," Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said at a weekly news conference. ``These remarks are just bullying and baseless remarks and show that they [the US] are not competent to be a member of the Security Council."

Iran has shown no sign that it will halt enrichment, a process the West says Iran is using to build atomic bombs. Iran denies the charge, saying it wants only to generate electricity.

``The road that we have taken is irreversible," Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was quoted by state television as saying. ``Iran intends to produce the nuclear fuel that it is going to use."

Analysts say opposition from veto-wielding powers Russia and China, big trade partners of Iran who see no imminent threat to peace from Tehran, could delay a move toward sanctions.

The United States has had broad restrictions on almost all trade with Iran since 1987.

Some political analysts believe a US attempt to further isolate Iran outside the United Nations would show a lack of international support for the UN approach.

Washington could probably count on close allies such as Britain, Australia, and some east European states to join such a coalition, analysts say, but not necessarily on other allies such as Germany, Italy, and Japan, which have a significant commercial stake in Iran and rely on Iranian oil exports.

President Jacques Chirac of France yesterday urged Iran ``to send the necessary signals to create the conditions for trust. There is always room for dialogue."

Iran has said it is ready for immediate talks but has refused to suspend enrichment before negotiations start, which was proposed in an incentives offer made by the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he hoped there was room for talks to find a solution that would avert sanctions.

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