Iran's parliament speaker said that attempts by the Obama administration to quell its nuclear program will only encourage the Islamic Republic to speed up its uranium enrichment even more.

"Even if U.S. President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPompeo’s retreat into chaos Barack Obama wishes Michelle a happy birthday: 'You’re one of a kind' NY Times prints special section featuring women of the 116th Congress MORE dares to repeat threats of tougher sanction against us as much as 10 times, we will still be determined to pursue our enrichment program, but with a much faster pace," Ali Larijani said Thursday, according to remarks carried by the semi-official Fars News Agency.

"Whenever we make a significant breakthrough, whether it is launching a satellite into space or any other technological or scientific achievement, they quickly demonize it and claim that it is aimed at military or spying purposes," Larijani said of Western fears that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. "They can not bear to see our progress, which is why they want to keep us as an underdeveloped country."

Tensions with Iran over its nuclear program have been heightened since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last weekend that uraniun enrichment would be stepped up to 20 percent. As the Islamic Republic celebrated its 31st anniversary on Thursday, Ahmadinejad declared that the first batch had been processed and reiterated that Iran was now a "nuclear state."


White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs doubted those claims at Thursday's briefing. "We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree they say they are enriching," he said.

Also on Thursday, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally MORE (R-Ariz.), GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) introduced a bill that would slap sanctions on Iranians who violate the human rights of other Iranians. “We will shine a light on Iran’s human-rights abusers and we will make them famous for their crimes,” McCain said.

And Sens. John CornynJohn CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test MORE (R-Texas) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) introduced legislation that would support opposition groups in their efforts to topple the regime in Tehran and pave the way for Democratic elections.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department moved to implement sanctions targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard.