Iran has threatened tough retaliation if it is referred to the UN Security Council because of its atomic program. Its conservative-controlled parliament gave preliminary backing to a bill that would oblige the government to "stop voluntary and non-legally binding measures and implement its scientific, research and executive programmes" if the Iranian case is taken up in New York.
The text does not refer to specific forms of retaliation, but counter-measures could encompass a refusal to adhere to the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which gives increased inspection powers to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The protocol, signed by the previous reformist government but not ratified by deputies, is seen as being crucial to an IAEA probe into allegations that Iran is using an atomic energy drive as a cover for weapons development.
The threat of retaliation could also include an end to Iran's freeze of ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment -- a process used to make reactor fuel but which can also make the explosive core of a nuclear weapon.
Top Iranian officials, who maintain the nuclear drive is for strictly peaceful purposes only, have already threatened such retaliation if Iran is referred to the Security Council.
The move by parliament is seen as a means for Iran to reinforce such warnings, and the bill is subject to further debate on Tuesday -- just two days ahead of the IAEA meeting.
Military site off-limits
Meanwhile foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the IAEA would not be let into a suspect military site in Tehran unless it provides "concrete proof" to justify an inspection.
He also insisted a new report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei does "not contain any negative points" -- even if the text explicitly states that "Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue."
One of the IAEA's demands is to return to the Lavizan-Shian area in Tehran, site of a physics research center that was dismantled and the ground razed before IAEA inspectors paid an initial visit in June 2004.
Under the NPT, Iran is not obliged to provide access to such sites but has allowed some access as a "confidence-building" measure.
"They cannot just say we want to talk to this or that person and keep on dragging out the dossier," Asefi argued.
The agency has uncovered suspect activity in Iran yet no "smoking gun," but concerns have been raised by Tehran's submission of a document bought on the black market describing how to make what could be the explosive core of an atom bomb.
Asefi said the significance of the document was being exaggerated, saying "there is no legal and rational reason to send Iran's case to the Security Council."
Iran triggered the latest crisis in August when it effectively broke off negotiations with Britain, France and Germany on a package of incentives for restraining its nuclear plans and resumed uranium conversion activities it had suspended a year ago.
Appeal to resume talks
The former Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, urged over the weekend Germany to resume talks with Iran over the nuclear issue.
"It is not only in the interest of the West or Iran, but in that of the whole world, that the nuclear negotiations be continued until a solution is reached," he told the Iranian news agency IRNA in Berlin.
Khatami, who is seen as a moderate, is currently a guest of the Hamburg-based Körber Foundation. He met the foreign minister-designate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on Thursday and German President Horst Köhler on Friday.
Because of the resumption of Iran's uranium conversion program, the EU negotiation trio cancelled talks with Iran that were scheduled to take place this week in Moscow.
Iran also announced it is to stop conversion work for 15 days but added the halt was only for brief maintenance work and not a result of international pressure and the IAEA board meeting.