President George Bush demanded that there be "consequences" for Iran after it ignored a UN security council deadline yesterday to suspend part of its nuclear programme. Washington wants UN sanctions imposed on Tehran as quickly as possible, but the security council is seriously divided.
In a defiant speech to cheering crowds during a regional tour, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the country would not be bullied. The Iranian government has hinted at retaliatory action if sanctions are imposed.
The way to sanctions was opened yesterday when the security council received a negative report from Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. It confirmed that, as of Tuesday, the last day that its inspectors were able to carry out observations: "Iran has not suspended its enrichment activities." It also said that three years of IAEA investigations still had not been able to confirm "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme because of lack of cooperation from Tehran".
The security council is due to meet next week to begin discussion on a new resolution to impose sanctions, but the negotiations could take months. Russia and China, which have close economic ties with Iran and are veto-wielding permanent members of the security council, are lukewarm about punitive measures.