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Iran refuses to back down on nuclear programme

Latest update : 2008-07-30

Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country will not retreat in the face of demands by world powers to stop sensitive nuclear work. His statement came moments before a deadline for Iran to freeze uranium enrichment or face fresh sanctions.

TEHRAN - Iran will pursue its nuclear path, the country's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday, speaking just before a deadline set by world powers in a nuclear dispute.

 

Western powers gave Iran two weeks from July 19 to respond to their offer to hold off on imposing more U.N. sanctions on Iran if Tehran would freeze any expansion of its nuclear work.

 

That would suggest a deadline of Saturday, although Russia, one of the six powers facing Iran, has opposed a deadline while also telling Iran not to drag its feet.

 

"They (the West) know that the Iranian nation is after using nuclear energy to provide electricity but they say because this work gives you capability, we will not allow it," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted by state radio as saying.

 

The West accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear warheads under cover of a civilian power programme. Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, denies the charge.

 

"The Iranian nation by depending on its useful experience and advantages of 30 years of resistance does not pay any attention to such talk and will continue with its path," Khamenei, who has the final say in state policy, was quoted as saying.

 

The freeze idea is aimed at getting preliminary talks started, although formal negotiations on the nuclear, trade and other incentives will not start before Iran suspends uranium enrichment, which has both civilian and military uses.

 

Iran has rejected suspension in the past and has given no indication so far that it is ready for a freeze.

 

"No consensus"

 

"One should not spoil negotiations by raising unreasonable conditions, since Iranians are not ready to deviate from their rights by one iota," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said late on Tuesday, Iran's Fars News Agency reported.

 

The president made his remark to South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has joined other ministers from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting in Tehran.

 

NAM, a group of 118 developing nations, is expected to issue a final statement broadly backing Iran's right to use peaceful nuclear energy. But diplomats said the text had been watered down from an initial draft prepared by the Islamic Republic.

 

One NAM diplomat said Iran wanted "clear support from NAM, unconditionally" but said there had been several amendments to the Iranian draft "to make it more moderate". He said Iran should by "more flexible" on the issue of building confidence.

 

"I could say some things as proposed by Iran have no consensus," said another NAM diplomat of the final statement, which is expected to be adopted by NAM later on Wednesday.

 

The statement is expected to broadly follow NAM's previous line backing the peaceful use of nuclear energy and welcoming Iran's continuing cooperation with the U.N. watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

 

Diplomats said it would omit a call for sanctions to be lifted swiftly, as proposed by Iran, but would include a statement opposing any attack on Iran's peaceful nuclear sites.

 

The United States has refused to rule out military action if diplomacy fails to end the row. It has said Iran's failure to respond positively to the offer would trigger steps towards more U.N. sanctions. Three sets have been imposed since 2006.

Date created : 2008-07-30

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