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Iran Refuses to Budge on UN Demand
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Iran yesterday defied a UN deadline for the Islamic Republic to suspend its uranium enrichment and vowed to continue its controversial nuclear program.


Amid the defiance, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei is due to make a report that is widely expected to confirm Tehran's refusal to halt enrichment.


Last December, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737, imposing sanctions on Iran's nuclear and missile programs. It also set a deadline, due on Wednesday, for Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities or face further sanctions.


"We will continue all plans to achieve progress with full power and strength," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in the city of Siahkal in northern Gilan Province, the official IRNA news agency reported.


He said that access to the full nuclear fuel cycle will move forward the Iranian nation by 50 years, according to the news agency.


IRNA reported earlier that Ahmadinejad made similar remarks at a public rally in the town of Amlash, also in Gilan Province, vowing "Iran will not retreat one iota in its path to nuclear victory."


The Iranian president said that Iran would continue to walk in the nuclear path "powerfully and wisely" until it reaches ultimate success.


"Today, there are those who are against Iran's access to peaceful nuclear technology and are trying to put obstacles in our nuclear path in order to prevent us from exercising our rights with the grace of the God," Ahmadinejad said.


But "their only option is to maintain their friendship and respect for the Iranian nation," he said.


Ahmadinejad said that those who oppose Iran's peaceful nuclear program know that if Iran achieves nuclear power, other countries will also move in this direction.


"And then they can no longer maintain their monopoly," he said. While stressing its right to push ahead with its nuclear program in defiance of the UN deadline, Iran has made diplomatic efforts to affirm its readiness to negotiate over its nuclear issue.


The dispute should be resolved peacefully through a "diplomatic solution," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters yesterday in Istanbul at the end of his two-day visit to Turkey.


Iran is prepared for possible US military attacks over its nuclear program, but still prefers cooperation on the issue, Mottaki said, adding that threats would not force Tehran into making concessions.


In a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoganon Tuesday, Mottaki reiterated that his country's nuclear energy program is for peaceful purposes and thanked Turkey for its endeavors to help solve the issue.


During a trip to Vienna on Tuesday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said that Iran was willing to restart negotiations on its nuclear program, but it rejected any precondition.


Following his meetings with ElBaradei and some other officials from Western countries in Vienna earlier in the day, Larijani told reporters that Iran wants to generate fuel for peaceful civilian purposes only.


Also on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said that Iran wants talks and could even shut down its nuclear facilities if the US and its allies do the same.


"We want talks, but they (the West) are imposing preconditions that would bereave our right," he said.


"They said our nuclear plant and the fuel cycle must be closed. This is O.K. only if those who want dialogue also suspend their own nuclear fuel cycles, and this is justice," he said.


Ahmadinejad's tone was likely more conciliatory than before and was seen as an effort to avoid fiery denunciation of the West before the UN deadline.


However, the US on Tuesday immediately rejected the Iranian president's conditional offer and urged Tehran to comply with the UN Security Council's demand.


"That's not the way the UN Security Council resolution reads…. That is a false offer," White House spokesman Tony Snow told a news briefing.


"The offer that the Iranians need to make is to suspend activity that could lead to the enrichment of nuclear material that could be used in creating a bomb," the spokesman added.


Warning that the deadline was coming, Snow said that the US was waiting to see "what happens in the next few days in terms of developments with the Iranians."


The US has asked Iran to stop uranium enrichment, a necessary step both in generating nuclear energy and making a nuclear bomb. Iran insists that its nuclear program be solely for civilian energy purposes.


Local observers believe that the UN Security Council might negotiate another resolution, which would likely impose tougher sanctions on Tehran.


(Chinadaily.com.cn via agencies, February 22, 2007)


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