BEIRUT — The powerful speaker of Iran's parliament warned Wednesday that his nation could take drastic steps in response to economic, political and military pressure meant to halt controversial parts of its nuclear program.
Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's parliament and a former nuclear negotiator, said there was "only a little time left" for talks before Iran would make unspecified moves that the West would regret.
Larijani, who is close to supreme leader Ali Khamenei, did not specify what Iran would do. But Tehran's options include kicking out International Atomic Energy Agency monitors now keeping an eye on Iran's nuclear program or stepping up its uranium enrichment program to produce weapons-grade material.
Iran currently produces only reactor-grade uranium suitable for energy production.
"A little time is left for having interaction with Iran," Larijani told lawmakers, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. "The final whistle is going to be blown for your defeated game."
Tehran insists its nuclear program is meant only to meet civilian energy needs. The U.S., some European powers and Israel allege the effort is meant to ultimately produce nuclear weapons. They are using diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and hints of future military action along with offers of potential business, political and security cooperation.
The carrot-and-stick approach is meant to cajole Iran into halting its expanding uranium enrichment efforts at its facility near the city of Natanz. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented a package of incentives on a trip to Tehran this month. Iranians say they are considering the proposals, though they insist they will not halt enrichment.
But Western media reports that Israel was practicing military operations aimed at Iran's nuclear program and the EU's decision this week to slap sanctions against Iran's largest bank have angered officials in Tehran.
"If you are willing to hold talks with Iran over the proposed package, then why have you adopted a confrontational approach before the package was studied?" Larijani asked.
Larijani's remarks Wednesday capped two days of defiant rhetoric against Western pressure. Many Iranians fear the U.S. is preparing for a possible military attack before President Bush leaves office.
"We advise U.S. officials to be careful not to face another tragedy," Mohammed Hejazi, an official in the military's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Wednesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. "If you want to move toward Iran, make sure you bring walking sticks and artificial legs because if you come, you will not have any legs to return on."
A day earlier Khamenei, Iran's top political and military authority, called the White House "the most resented rulers and policymakers" of the world.
"The 'Death to America' slogan, which was once coined and chanted by the Iranian nation, has now spread to other nations too," he said.
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a relative moderate who tried unsuccessfully to liberalize Iran's foreign and domestic policies, told an audience in Norway on Tuesday that U.S. policies had made the world more insecure, unstable and violent.
"The United States has to realize that they cannot resolve all their problems through aggression and force," Khatami said at a conference in Oslo promoting dialogue between the Islamic world and the West.