TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian media on Saturday described a resolution from the U.N. nuclear watchdog expressing “deep and increasing concern” about the country’s atomic program as a victory, celebrating the fact it does not call for new U.N. sanctions.
But Washington has already lined up new unilateral sanctions aimed at Iran’s multi-billion-dollar petrochemical industry and will pressure its allies to follow suit, sources told Reuters.
“Additional sanctions put on hold,” ran the lead headline on Jomhuri-ye Eslami daily.
“Global opposition to U.S. nuclear scenario,” read Hamshahri.
“U.S. failure in IAEA’s governing board,” said Qods, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency resolution that Washington says upped pressure on Iran.
Russia and China signed up to the resolution calling on Iran to clarify questions over its atomic activities “to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions,” but they have resisted pressure from Washington for more UN sanctions.
Iran said the resolution had strengthened its determination to push ahead with the nuclear program it says is aimed solely at power generation and medical and agricultural applications.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, a foreign affairs adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, told PBS television Iran was “100 percent away” from getting nuclear weapons but aimed to have the hypothetical capability to make them as its nuclear know-how increases.
“If you ask in terms of capability, hypothetically, ‘is Iran capable to do that if it decides?’ Obviously yes. Any country who has nuclear technology is capable of doing that,” Larijani said, according to a transcript issued by PBS.
He cited Germany and Japan as countries that had no nuclear weapons but could make them in a matter of months if they wished and said Iran aimed to be more advanced than them.
Iran dismissed a report issued by the IAEA last week that included intelligence indicating Iran had worked on designing an atom bomb as “unprofessional, unbalanced, illegal and politicized” and some Iranian lawmakers are calling for the country to stop all cooperation with the agency.
In a separate move, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution on Friday condemning an alleged plot -- blamed by U.S. authorities on Iranian agents -- to kill Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United States, allegations Tehran has dismissed as a fabricated “comedy show.”
Amid the rising international heat over its nuclear program, Iran’s army said it had started a large-scale, four-day exercise on Friday aimed at testing its defenses.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has sought to play down speculation of possible air strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites -- something Washington and Israel have said they do not rule out -- saying such a move could have “unintended consequences” including harming the global economy.
But with Republican presidential hopefuls voicing willingness to get tough on Iran, the political and diplomatic pressure on Iran is set to intensify in the coming months.
While Russian and Chinese resistance has prevented the likelihood of any additions to the existing four rounds of UN sanctions imposed since 2006, sources in Washington said tough new U.S. sanctions could be unveiled as early as Monday.
The new measures would aim to bar foreign companies from aiding Iran’s petrochemical industry, with the threat of depriving them of access to the U.S. market. Similar sanctions already stop banks and other financial companies that have business in the United States working with Iran.
The world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter is also a major producer of petrochemicals with exports for 2010-2011 worth $8.6 billion, according to the Oil Ministry website SHANA.
Iran’s English language Press TV reported in July that Iran aimed to boost that to $14 billion in the current year, ending March 19.
Additional reporting by Mitra Amiri, Hashem Kalantari and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Sophie Hares