Iran on Saturday slammed as illegal a new Security Council resolution likely to be adopted against Tehran for its nuclear defiance as the world body delayed a vote on a third set of UN sanctions.
"Reviewing Iran's case in the UN Security Council is illegal. It is like beating the air," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
On Friday the Security Council put the finishing touches to a draft resolution imposing further sanctions over Tehran's refusal to heed UN demands to halt uranium enrichment.
The world body is expected to vote on the resolution on Monday.
The West fears that the know-how gained from uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities could give Iran the capability to make nuclear weapons, a charge vehemently denied by Tehran.
Iran insists its nuclear case is closed, referring to last month's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which said it had made "quite good progress" in its four-year probe into Iran's nuclear programme.
But the IAEA said it could still not confirm if the Iranian atomic drive was peaceful, prompting the United States and its European allies to push for new sanctions.
As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran says it has a right to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel to meet the growing energy needs of its population.
The country's first Russian-built atomic power plant is yet to go on line.
A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed on Saturday that Iran "will not heed the pressures applies by the greedy ones and will continue its legal activities on the path to progress."
Elham also hit out at Israel, calling for UN action against a "regime which is contaminated by atomic weapons and warheads and admits to it too."
Israel, which has the Middle East's only - if undeclared - nuclear arsenal, has pushed for stepped-up international pressure on Iran.
"The Security Council had better take up the crucial issue of the Zionist regime which is the only threat to world peace and security," Elham said.
The UN vote was delayed until Monday so sponsors "can get as broad support as possible," diplomats said as Britain, France and Germany engaged in last-minute talks to try to win over four non-permanent members of the Security Council.
Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia and Libya see fresh sanctions as counter-productive and worry they might prompt Iran to stop cooperating with the IAEA.
They note that the IAEA report spoke of progress in Iran's efforts to come clean on past nuclear activities.
Adoption of the text is a foregone conclusion as it has already been agreed by the five veto-wielding members of the council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
The sponsors also have enough support among the 10 non-permanent members to ensure passage, which requires nine votes and no veto.
China, Iran's major trading partner, said on Thursday that the new sanctions should not undermine trade. A Chinese firm was reportedly preparing to sign a 16-billion-dollar energy deal with Tehran.
The latest sanctions are marginally tougher than those imposed in two previous resolutions adopted in December 2006 and March 2007.
The current draft includes an outright ban on travel by officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programmes, and inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.
It also calls "upon states to exercise vigilance in entering into new commitments for public-provided financial support for trade with Iran, including the granting of export credits, guarantees or insurance to their nationals involved in such trade."
Iran's banking system already suffers from unilateral sanctions by the United States, which has also persuaded major European and Asian banks to cut their dealings with Tehran.
Elham said that Iran's Central Bank had taken "serious preventive measures to protect national interests using international capacities."
"Iran will not limit itself to the financial services of some European countries," he said, without offering further details. (AFP)
Iran says new UN sanctions would be illegal