A TOP aide to Iran's supreme leader today declared Tehran did not fear being taken to the UN security council over its nuclear program and warned any resulting oil embargo would see world prices top $US100 a barrel.
Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, one of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's closest advisers, dismissed as "ridiculous" some suggestions from Europe aimed at persuading Tehran to end uranium enrichment to avoid being summoned by the security council.
But Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Tehran saw "positive signals" from the three European countries - Britain, France and Germany - with whom it has been negotiating to try to close its file with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"If we had not received positive signals, we would not continue negotiations," he said.
Mr Ramezanzadeh also said he was optimistic that negotiations, which resume this week in Paris, would end in an agreement. "There is little chance that the negotiations will end with nothing."
But he, too, repeated that Iran was prepared for all possibilities and would "stand up against threats". He warned, too, that taking Tehran to the security council and possible sanctions would affect more than Iran.
"We must not fear that such a decision will only affect one of the parties," he said, referring to Iran and echoing Mr Nateq-Nuri's words.
Washington charges that Iran is using its nuclear program as a cover for efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, allegations vehemently denied by Tehran which also points out it has the right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
But under international pressure, Tehran now has to prove to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, that it is not pursuing the bomb or risk being hauled in front of the security council for possible sanctions.
Overnight, hundreds of Iranian university students created a human chain around the Islamic Republic's atomic organisation headquarters backing the resumption of uranium enrichment.
"Enrichment is our natural right," they shouted, along with the habitual "Death to America".
Earlier, Iranian lawmakers passed a Bill backing the resumption of uranium enrichment, as the Government left the door open for further negotiations with Europe over the controversial practice.
Mr Nateq-Nuri, in an interview with Iran News, said he saw no reason to fear the UN.
"Since our position is logical, right and consistent with the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and the international law, we do not fear the security council," he said.
Questioned about a possible UN embargo on Tehran's oil exports, the former parliamentary speaker said: "The big loser will be them, not us.
"If an oil embargo is slapped on Iran, the price of oil will exceed $US100 per barrel, with a potential to paralyse the West's economy."
World oil prices are near recent record levels at $US50 a barrel.
Mr Nateq-Nuri added: "If the No.2 producer within OPEC is prevented from selling its oil on the international market, it would spell disaster for all consuming nations.
"I believe even if we are referred to the UN security council, an oil embargo will not be placed on us right away."
Last week, Iran's influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said the country would continue talks with Europe over its nuclear activities, but reject any threats aimed at depriving the country of peaceful nuclear technology.
"We agree to continue negotiations within the framework of international rules, but if the Europeans want to use threats, there is no more place for negotiations," he said on state radio.