Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared yesterday that the country's controversial nuclear program poses no threat to any other country, even Israel "which is a definite enemy."
Ahmadinejad spoke after inaugurating a heavy-water production plant, which went into operation despite UN demands that Iran roll back its nuclear program. Tehran says is for peaceful purposes, but Western nations fear it could be used to develop a nuclear bomb.
During a speech, Ahmadinejad declared that Iran would never abandon its nuclear program and repeated that nuclear weapons is not the goal.
"Basically, there is no talk of nuclear weapons. There is no discussion of nuclear weapons," he said. "We are not a threat to anybody, even the Zionist regime, which is a definite enemy for the people of the region."
Iran is under a Thursday deadline established by the UN Security Council to suspend uranium enrichment or face political and economic sanctions. Tehran has called the Security Council's resolution that set the deadline "illegal" and has insisted it won't give up its nuclear program.
Iran also responded last Tuesday to an incentives package presented by the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany. Tehran said it would be open to negotiations but did not agree to the West's key demand to halt uranium enrichment as a precondition to talks.
Ahmadinejad yesterday affirmed Iran's right to develop nuclear technology.
"They may impose some restrictions on us under pressure. But will they be able to prevent the thoughts of a nation? Will they be able to prevent the progress and technology to a nation? They have to accept the reality of a powerful, peace-loving and developed Iran. This is in the interest of all governments and all nations whether they like it or not," he said.
Though the West's main worry has been uranium enrichment, it also has called on Iran to stop the construction of a heavy-water reactor near the plant that Ahmadinejad inaugurated.
Iran has been a building the reactor for two years but is not scheduled to complete it until 2009.
Nuclear weapons can be produced using either plutonium or highly enriched uranium as the explosive core. Either substance can be produced in the process of running a reactor.
Reactors fueled by enriched uranium use regular -- or "light" -- water as a "moderator" in the chain reaction that produces energy.
Reactors using "heavy water" contains a heavier hydrogen particle, which allows the reactor to run on natural uranium mined by Iran, forgoing the enrichment progress. But the spent fuel from a heavy-water reactor can be reprocessed to extract plutonium for use in a bomb.