Iran Flexes Strength as U.N. Considers Sanctions

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aimed words squarely at the U.S. recently while celebrating his country's nuclear program, sending a deliberately provocative message to the world.
Just days before President Obama hosts a nuclear summit in Washington, Iran announced Friday that "its nuclear path is irreversible," a dramatic move, despite the prospect of tough new sanctions.

In a ceremony where a choir and musicians performed a specially written nuclear symphony, Iran recently unveiled its homemade nuclear technology, including a new centrifuge - five times faster than the current model. Iran insists it's all for peaceful purposes, but it could also take the country closer to making a bomb.

Celebrating Iran's nuclear program in such an elaborate way is of course a public spectacle for Iranians, but it's also a deliberately provocative message to the world, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made crystal clear with words aimed squarely at the U.S., reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

"Anyone who thinks they can threaten Iranian resolve to carry on with our nuclear program," Ahmadinejad said, "is greatly mistaken."

But he knows a big new threat is looming.

The U.S. has marshaled unprecedented support at the U.N. Security Council for punishing new sanctions against Iran. Mr. Obama knows he can now count on Russia's backing, and for the first time the world's other superpower - China - looks as if it's on board too.

The formula for sanctions will be hard to get right. No one wants to hurt Iran's struggling opposition movement, but they do want to cripple the elite Revolutionary Guard's military and nuclear ambitions.

In public, Iran hasn't changed its tune on an aggressive nuclear program one bit, but the U.S. and its allies are hoping that behind the scenes its leaders will be having second thoughts.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."