May 7/10. TEHRAN (Reuters)
– Iran has entered the world's "nuclear club" and major powers should accept it,
an influential cleric told worshippers on Friday, underlining Tehran's defiance
in a dispute with the West over its atomic activities.
Ahmad Khatami, a
conservative hard-liner in the clerical establishment, also warned the major
powers that Iran could "endanger your entire world" in any future confrontation.
The United States is
lobbying U.N. Security Council members to back a fourth round of sanctions on
Iran, to press it into curbing sensitive nuclear work the West suspects is aimed
at making bombs.
Iran, the world's
fifth-largest crude exporter, says its nuclear program is aimed at generating
electricity and has refused to bow to international pressure to halt it.
"In regard to the nuclear
issue, you should regard the nuclearization of Iran as a bygone fact," said
Khatami, who is a member of a powerful clerical body, the Assembly of Experts.
"By God's grace, Iran has
entered the world countries' nuclear club," said in a sermon broadcast live on
The United States and
Israel, Iran's arch foes, have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails
to resolve the row.
Iran, a predominantly
Shi'ite Muslim state, has said it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S.
interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz, a
waterway crucial for global oil supplies.
Addressing the six world
powers which are now discussing a possible new round of sanctions on Iran -- the
United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- Khatami said:
"If you should want to
stand up against this religious (Islamic) system you would be standing up
against the religion of God, and if you should want to confront our religion we
will endanger your entire world."
Khatami praised President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attendance at this week's start of the month-long review
conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Tehran and Washington
accuse each other of violating.
In his May 3 speech at
U.N. headquarters in New York, Ahmadinejad urged the United Nations to punish
countries like the United States that threaten to use nuclear arms.
U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton dismissed Ahmadinejad's comments as the "same tired, false and
sometimes wild accusations," and she urged nations to focus on efforts to bring
Iran to heel over its nuclear program.
"Our president took part
in this conference with full courage and intelligence," Khatami said. "If anyone
wants to see how effective this trip was they should look at the indignation of
the arrogant powers."