Reaction in Iran to Possible U.N. Sanctions

Alex Chadwick speaks with correspondent Roxana Saberi, reporting from the Iranian capital of Tehran, on reactions within the nation to news of possible international sanctions because of Iran's reactivated uranium enrichment program.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. In a moment, we'll talk with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly at the U.S. Senate today, where there's a big discussion about the threats this country faces. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. Very high on that list, Iran and its nuclear ambitions. We'll begin there.

The United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency continues debating whether and how to advocate sanctions against Iran for its planned uranium enrichment program that could lead to a bomb.

Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remains defiant, calling nuclear development there peaceful and an absolute right for his nation. The dispute makes many people anxious, including Iranians. I spoke earlier with reporter Roxana Saberi, in Tehran.

CHADWICK: Roxana, how is the news of possible international sanctions being reported within Iran? What are people saying about it there?

ROXANA SABERI reporting:

Well, in the media there are various reactions; although none of the media, whether they're moderate, or conservative, or hard-line, would say that Iran should compromise on the nuclear issue or give up its rights to nuclear energy. They differ in other areas.

For example, some of the moderate papers are saying that Iran's nuclear diplomacy has failed, and instead of focusing on trying to negotiate with countries in the East, or Russia, China, instead of the European countries, this process has failed, and that Iran should have focused more on the European Union, and they still also promote continued negotiations with the Europeans and Chinese and Russians to try to solve the problems.

Some of the conservative papers are stressing Iran has done nothing illegal, and if Iran's case is reported or referred to the U.N. Security Council, Iran will stop its voluntary measures, such as snap inspections, increased inspections of its nuclear sites, and also it will restart a uranium enrichment at a high industrial scale. So, they're saying that this move would just simply threaten Iran's cooperation with the international community.

CHADWICK: President Ahmadinejad, does he enjoy enough support? Because, if there were sanctions, things could get much worse in Iran for everyday life.

SABERI: They could get much worse. And I think this, the answer to this question would remain to be seen, what kind of sanctions, if any, will be imposed, and what the effects would be.

He does have a lot of popular support amongst certain segments of society, especially, I would say, in rural areas, or traditional religious families, and also maybe in the lower class levels. And they say, well we, in, during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's, which lasted eight years, we faced limited resources, limited imports, and limited exports of our oil.

So they think they can do it again. But, on the other hand, other people say, well, this would be much different. It would be international sanctions, we would not get the same kind of imports that we would need. We would be able to export much less oil than we would need to power our economy.

So, I think the opinion is really split. And what would happen depends on what kind of sanctions would be put in place.

CHADWICK: Is this a question that most people in Iran just wish would go away, or is it maybe something that could help define people's sense of a national identity?

SABERI: I think, to some extent, it has increased the feeling of patriotism, the kind of rally around the flag feeling. There are many Iranians who, while they may disagree with the regime on other subjects, for example, freedom of the press, or freedom of politics, democracy, these sorts of things, on this issue, they're more unified. But then again, there are those who are more worried, especially those who are involved in the import/export business. They've already been suffering, they say, because of political uncertainty and increased tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

CHADWICK: Roxana Saberi in Tehran. Roxana, thanks for being with us again on DAY TO DAY.

SABERI: Thanks for having me.

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