Image: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to supporters while visiting the city of Shahrekord in Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari province
Iranian Presidency via Reuters
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to supporters while visiting the city of Shahrekord on November 9.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/9/2011 5:03:06 AM ET 2011-11-09T10:03:06

Iran won't retreat "one iota" from its nuclear program but the world is being misled by claims that it seeks atomic weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in his first reaction since a U.N. watchdog report that Tehran is on the brink of developing a warhead.

Ahmadinejad strongly chided the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, saying it is discrediting itself by siding with "absurd" U.S. accusations.

"This nation won't retreat one iota from the path it is going," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Shahr-e-Kord in central Iran. "Why are you ruining the prestige of the (U.N. nuclear) agency for absurd U.S. claims?"

The 13-page annex to the IAEA's report released Tuesday included claims that while some of Iran's activities have civilian as well as military applications, others are "specific to nuclear weapons."

Among these were indications that Iran has conducted high explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge, as well as computer modeling of a core of a nuclear warhead.

Story: UN: Some secret Iran work 'specific to nuclear weapons'

The report also cited preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test, and development of a nuclear payload for Iran's Shahab 3 intermediate range missile — a weapon that can reach Israel.

Iran is 'wise'
Ahmadinejad repeated Iran's claims that it doesn't make sense to build nuclear weapons in a world already awash in atomic arms.

"The Iranian nation is wise. It won't build two bombs against 20,000 (nuclear) bombs you have," he said in comments apparently directed at the West and others. "But it builds something you can't respond to: ethics, decency, monotheism and justice," he added in a his speech, which was broadcast live on state TV.

The U.S. and allies claim a nuclear-armed Iran could touch off a nuclear arms race among rival states, including Saudi Arabia, and directly threaten Israel.

The West is seeking to use the report as leverage to possible tougher sanctions on Iran, but Israel and others have said military options have not been ruled out.

The bulk of the information in the IAEA report was a compilation of alleged findings that have already been partially revealed by the agency.

But some of the information was new — including evidence of a large metal chamber at a military site for nuclear-related explosives testing.

Iran has dismissed that, saying they were merely metal toilet stalls.

The U.N. Security Council has passed four sets of damaging sanctions on Iran, but veto-wielding members China and Russia oppose further measures and are unlikely to change their minds despite the report's findings.

China has not isn't publicly commented yet on a U.N. assessment of Iran's nuclear programs in a likely sign that it will wait for Washington and Moscow to signal their intentions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that Beijing was studying the report and repeated calls for dialogue and cooperation.

In Paris, France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said his country is ready to push for new sanctions of "an unprecedented scale" if Iran refuses to answer new questions about its nuclear program.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Timeline: Iran’s nuclear program

Video: UN: Iran nuclear threat grows real

  1. Transcript of: UN: Iran nuclear threat grows real

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There's also news tonight about Iran and the threat of nuclear weapons . There's a new UN report out. It says the threat has grown more real, and this happens to come amid reports Israel is again considering some sort of military strike . Our chief foreign affairs Andrea Mitchell has more.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Even before the report's release, for days Iran has been denouncing it as a tool of the United States and Israel .

    Unidentified Man:

    Group of People:

    MITCHELL: Iran 's President Ahmadinejad today called the head of the UN agent a puppet of the US. But the UN agency the IAEA reports new evidence that Iran is on the verge of a major nuclear breakthrough to know how to build a nuclear bomb . What is the proof? Experts say satellite images show Iran has built an enormous steel structure that could be used to test explosives used to trigger a weapon. A warhead small enough to fit on a missile that could hit Israel or Europe. Despite denials, experts say Iran had help from a former Soviet scientist with decades of weapons experience.

    Mr. DAVID ALBRIGHT (Nuclear Expert): The evidence looks pretty clear that he -- the Iranians benefited tremendously from his expertise and used it to build a smaller nuclear weapons design. I think some will conclude from this that it is a smoking gun.

    MITCHELL: For years, Israel and possibly the US have waged a cyberwar against Iran's nuclear program . They've slowed its centrifuges with a Stuxnet computer virus. And two Iranian nuclear scientists were mysteriously assassinated on their way to work. But experts say Iran has now overcome those hurdles and is back on track. Intelligence estimates differ widely on how close Iran could be to developing a bomb. Still, few military experts outside of Israel believe that military action could take out Iran's nuclear program , much of it buried deep underground.

    General BARRY McCAFFREY, Retired (NBC News Military Analyst): They don't have the conventional air power , the air-to- air refueling to credibly strike the Iranian nuclear production facilities.

    MITCHELL: Israel is already holding mock disaster drills in anticipation of an attack from Iran . The UN weapons report will only increase fears in a region already on edge. Andrea Mitchell , NBC News, Washington.

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