Iran declared on Monday it will not be swayed from its nuclear “path” by sanctions, a week before talks with world powers that are increasingly seen as a last chance for diplomacy in its showdown with the West.
“The sanctions may have caused us small problems but we will continue our path,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi vowed in an interview with the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
“We do not underestimate any enemy, no matter how tiny and lowly they are. The regime’s officials -- the supreme leader, the president, the army, the (Revolutionary) Guards and Basij (militia) -- are completely vigilant. And the nation is prepared to defend the achievements of Islamic Iran,” he said.
The defiant words came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that the talks between Iran and the world powers would take place April 13 and 14 in Istanbul.
She and U.S. President Barack Obama have both publicly said that the window for diplomacy in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program is closing.
“Our policy is one of prevention, not containment,” Clinton said in Saudi Arabia after talks with her Gulf Arab counterparts.
“It is incumbent upon Iran to demonstrate by its actions that it is a willing partner and to participate in these negotiations with an effort to obtain concrete results,” Clinton said.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions of Iran because of suspicions over its nuclear program, which the West and Israel believe includes a drive to develop atomic weapons capability.
Iran denies any military dimension to its nuclear activities.
Israel and the United States have threatened military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.
Israeli ‘spying on Iran’ to scale down
Last month, Western intelligence sources uncovered an Israeli intelligence mission’s effort to spy on Iran in a bid to find “smoking gun” evidence that the Islamic republic was building a nuclear warhead, according to a report by the The Sunday Times.
Israel is using a permanent base in northern Iraq to launch its missions, which have been conducted on Iran for several years.
The report stated that the Israeli spy operations have intensified in recent months, with spy teams are using “sensitive equipment … to monitor the radioactivity and magnitude of explosives tests” being carried out at the Parchin military complex near Tehran, the newspaper said.
But Israeli intelligence are now reportedly scaling down their covert operations in Iran and spy recruitment, senior Israeli security officials said this week in an interview with TIME magazine.
The move would also imply a cutback in alleged high-profile missions such as assassinations and detonations at missile bases.
But the officials, who were unnamed by the magazine, said that the move was met with “increased dissatisfaction” by Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency.
One security official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was afraid that the operations would get exposed by Iran. The official notes that this fear is primarily driven by Mossad’s failure to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal back in 1997, when Netanyahu served his first term as Prime Minister.
“Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] is traumatized from the Mashaal incident,” the official said. “He is afraid of another failure, that something will blow up in his face,” the official added, in comments carried by Russia Today.
(Additional writing by Eman El-Shenawi)