TEHRAN - Iran's Parliament speaker yesterday warned that the West could face a "done deal" if it provokes Iran, in a rare hint by an Iranian official that Tehran could build nuclear weapons if attacked.
Iran's leaders have long been adamant that the country's nuclear program is and will always be aimed only at generating electricity. Ali Larijani did not directly contradict that stance, but his veiled warning comes amid increased Iranian fears that the United States or Israel could strike its nuclear facilities.
Earlier this month, Israel sent warplanes and other aircraft on a major exercise in the eastern Mediterranean that US officials said was a message to Iran - a show of force as well as practice in the operations needed for a long-range strike mission.
Larijani, who was once Iran's top nuclear negotiator with the West, made the comments in a speech to Parliament aired on state television and radio.
He cited comments by Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN nuclear watchdog chief, who said in an interview last week that a military strike on Iran could turn the Mideast into a "ball of fire" and "prompt Iran, even if it didn't produce a nuclear weapon today, to resort to an emergency plan to produce a nuclear weapon."
"Take Mr. ElBaradei's warnings seriously," Larijani said, addressing the West.
"Don't provoke Iran, otherwise you will face a done deal that will block the path of your return to a compromise with Iran," Larijani told a Parliament session broadcast live on state radio yesterday.
The phrase he used in Farsi, "amal-e anjam shodeh," means literally "an accomplished act" or "fait accompli."
Larijani also warned that a "short opportunity is left" for a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
The West is taking a carrot-and-stick approach with Iran, offering a package of economic incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment, while threatening an increase in sanctions if it doesn't comply. Uranium enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a warhead.
Iran insists it will never suspend enrichment but has also tried to reach a compromise with its own proposals on how to resolve the standoff.
Washington and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb.
Iran has always said it will never do so - and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled it out, calling nuclear weapons un-Islamic.