TEHRAN -- Iran vowed yesterday to press ahead with uranium enrichment, despite UN economic sanctions aimed at forcing a rollback in its nuclear program. The hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that the penalties would hurt the West more than they would Iran.
The measures, adopted unanimously Saturday by the 15 members of the UN Security Council, were the first concrete steps taken against Iran for defying a UN demand that it rein in the nuclear program to allay suspicions it is trying to develop nuclear arms.
Iranian analysts voiced caution about the impact that the sanctions might have on Iran's economy, saying it could chase away foreign investment needed to create jobs. But Ahmadinejad said the United Nations would have to accept Iran's nuclear program.
"This will not damage the nation of Iran, but its issuers will soon regret this superficial and nil act," he told a group of veterans from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Addressing countries that voted for the sanctions, Ahmadinejad said the only impact of the sanctions would be "dissolving your reputation," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as telling the veterans, gathered at the former US Embassy in Tehran.
Iran's main nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said the resolution had made his country more "decisive in realizing our nuclear aims." He said it would step up enrichment activities.
"From Sunday morning, we will begin activities at Natanz -- the site of 3,000-centrifuge machines -- and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution," Iran's Kayhan newspaper quoted Larijani as saying.
Iran insists its nuclear program is intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity, but Washington and some allies suspect its ultimate goal is to create atomic weapons in violation of Iran's treaty commitments.
The UN resolution orders all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs.
It also freezes the assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals, who, the resolution says, are related to those programs.
If Iran refuses to comply, the council warned that it would adopt further nonmilitary sanctions, but the resolution emphasized the importance of diplomacy in seeking guarantees "that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."
Layla Chamankhah, an independent political analyst, predicted: "Iran's international reputation will be damaged." But he played down the potential for economic harm from the sanctions.
"Regardless, Iran's economy will continue in its own way," he said.
But Hamid Reza Shokouhi, a columnist for the independent newspaper Mardomsalari, said the sanctions would reduce the confidence of foreign investors.
"At a time when the country is trying to attract foreign investors -- to create job opportunities-- the sanctions will decrease their appetite for investment in Iran," Shokouhi said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said the Security Council vote would lead Iran to change the way it deals with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Association.
"We are not obliged and it is not expected that cooperation with the IAEA continues" as it did in the past, Hosseini told reporters. He did not provide details about what would change.
Iran's legislature voted yesterday to urge Ahmadinejad's administration to revise its cooperation with the IAEA, but did not set a timeline or provide further details. Many legislators chanted "Death to America" after the vote.