by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Oct 5, 2010
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenged the West on Tuesday to put more pressure on Iran, which he said would fail to make any impact on the Islamic republic or its atomic programme.
Ahmadinejad, in an address to the people of the northeastern province of Golestan, said that during a trip he made last month to the United States, people there "were insisting that the sanctions have affected us."
"And I, on your behalf, insisted and told them 'The sanctions have had no effect, and whatever the heck you want to do in the next two years, do it now so we see what you are capable of'," he said in the speech broadcast live on state television.
Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials repeatedly dismiss the effects of sanctions imposed on Tehran for pursuing its atomic programme.
The United Nations Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions against Iran on June 9, which were followed by tougher measures from the United States, the European Union and some other countries.
The West led by Washington suspects that Iran is seeking to make atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge denied by Tehran.
Ahmadinejad visited New York last month to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, where he infuriated Washington by raising questions over the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.
earlier related report
"North Korea is restoring nuclear facilities and continuing maintenance activities at Yongbyon," a spokesman quoted Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young as telling parliament on Monday. "It is engaged in new construction and large-scale excavation."
The foreign ministry said the South is closely monitoring the work.
"There are some activities going on but we have no information on what these are for," said spokesman Kim Young-Sun. "The government is watching closely the activities there and exchanging information with other countries."
An unidentified government official was quoted by Dong-A Ilbo newspaper as saying that two rectangular buildings were being built next to the site of a cooling tower demolished in 2008.
A private US research institute reported last week that new construction or excavation was under way at Yongbyon.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said tracks made by heavy machinery along with construction or excavation equipment were visible in satellite photos.
ISIS said there appeared to be ongoing construction of two small buildings next to the former tower, which the North blew up in June 2008 in front of foreign media to dramatise its commitment to nuclear disarmament.
The institute said the purpose of the work is unclear but bears watching.
The North's current plutonium stockpile is believed to be enough for six to eight bombs.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-Yon told the United Nations last week his country must strengthen its nuclear deterrent in the face of what he called threats from the United States.
The North shut down Yongbyon in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord. The following summer it destroyed the tower.
But six-party talks became bogged down in December 2008 over ways to verify the North's denuclearisation. In April 2009 Pyongyang abandoned the talks and said it had resumed reprocessing spent fuel rods to make plutonium.
In May 2009 it conducted an atomic weapons test, its second.
The North has indicated willingness in principle to return to the six-party forum chaired by its ally China. But it says it wants separate talks with the United States about signing a permanent peace treaty on the peninsula.
South Korea and the United States, which accuse the North of a deadly March attack on a South Korean warship, have responded warily. Japan and Russia are also members of the forum.
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