Iran has warned it is ready to retaliate against attack after Israel’s prime minister urged a red line to be drawn over its nuclear program.
Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. time was running out to stop Iran having enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.
In response, Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador said his country was strong enough to defend itself.
Iran’s U.N. mission said Israel had made “baseless and absurd allegations against (its) exclusively peaceful nuclear program.”
It also said Israel “on a daily basis, threatens countries in the region, particularly my country (with) military attack.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack,” the Iranian mission said in a written statement.
Netanyahu had said on Thursday the only way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons was by setting “a clear red line” to stop its atomic program.
“At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs and that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. “Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.”
“The hour is late, very late,” Netanyahu said, alleging Iran was already 70 percent of the way through the process of enriching enough uranium to fuel a bomb, and must be prevented from reaching the 90 percent level.
He said that by next summer, Iran will be on brink of having enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.
Israel has warned that it could launch military action against Iran in order to prevent it reaching a certain nuclear threshold, and has urged the international community to force Tehran to abandon its atomic quest.
Iran denies it is building a nuclear weapon and has dismissed the Israeli threat.
Meanwhile, China said on Thursday that the disagreement over Iran’s nuclear program had reached “a new, crucial stage,” calling for Tehran to begin a new round of talks with world powers, something a U.S. official said could happen at some point.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi spoke several hours after Netanyahu’s U.N. General Assembly address and after a meeting of officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China - and Germany yielded no obvious signs of progress toward a diplomatic solution.
“The Iranian nuclear issue has reached a new, crucial stage,” Yang said in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. “The relevant parties should remain committed to a diplomatic solution and begin a new round of dialogue as soon as possible.”
A senior U.S. official said “at some point” the group would likely return for a fourth round of talks with Iran.
“I think we’ve got some additional work to do first, so I would not expect that to happen immediately, but I would hope that we will get there in the not-too-distant future,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The push to resume talks comes at a time when tensions between Iran and Israel are rising and diplomatic efforts to resolve the decade-long dispute over Iran’s nuclear work have foundered.
Israel, the United States, the European Union and their allies say Iran is amassing the capability to produce a nuclear bomb, an allegation the Islamic Republic denies.
The six world powers, represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, have sought to persuade Iran to scale back the enrichment of uranium through intensifying economic sanctions and diplomacy.
Israel’s threats bolster Iran’s stance: Guards
Meanwhile, the head of the Revolutionary Guards said on Friday that Israel’s threats of military action against Iran over its nuclear program only serve to boost the defiance of the Islamic republic.
“The enemies want to stop us continuing our path... but these threats only reinforce our determination to continue in the same direction,” General Mohammad Ali Jafari said in a speech to thousands of members of the country’s Basij militia, according to the Guards’ Sepahnews website.
“That is why, when the Zionists make military threats, they are put in their place by the United States,” he said.
Jafari’s comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told the UN General Assembly that “a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program” needed to be set. He has said his country is contemplating air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“If a military attack is launched against our nuclear installations, we promise that the enemies will not escape alive,” the head of Iran’s air and ballistic missile units, General Farzad Esmaili, was quoted as saying on Friday by the ISNA news agency.
Last weekend, Jafari announced that an Israel-Iran war “will eventually happen” and that his country was prepared.
But on Wednesday, he stepped back from those remarks, saying that Israel’s threats “lead nowhere and will not result in an armed conflict,” according to Sepahnews.