Sun, Oct 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Iran favors talks, but `nuclear rights' are non-negotiable


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran would not negotiate over its "nuclear rights" but said the government was prepared to answer questions from the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

The comments on Friday came as French diplomatic officials said Iran is set to run almost 3,000 centrifuges by the end of the month, nearing the threshold for industrial-scale uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad said Iran has already achieved proficiency in the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from extracting uranium ore to enriching it, and that Tehran has removed any hurdles in the way of its nuclear progress.

"The Iranian nation favors talks but it won't negotiate over its definite and legal nuclear rights. They [world powers] have to know this," Ahmadinejad said in comments before Friday prayers in Tehran.

He added he believed the nuclear issue was over and Iran will ignore attempts by the US and its European allies to further politicize the issue.

"From our point of view, Iran's nuclear issue has been closed. The fact that these powers are screaming tells us the case is closed. This is a great victory for the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

Two rounds of UN Security Council sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to halt enrichment, a process that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials needed for nuclear weapons.

The US, France and Britain are seeking a third round of sanctions against Iran but in a setback for the US, Iran won a two-month reprieve from new UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear program last month.

The Bush administration and its European allies ceded to Russian and Chinese demands to give Tehran more time to address international concerns.

The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons but Tehran has denied the charges saying its nuclear program is merely geared towards generating electricity, not bombs.

Iran says it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush denied in an interview with Arab television that the US is gearing up to attack Iran and said he remains committed to working diplomatically to resolve the standoff with Tehran over its nuclear program.

In an interview with the al-Arabiya satellite network, Bush said he was determined to seek resolution of these issues through diplomatic means and that he will try to impose new sanctions that will force the Islamic state to renounce its uranium enrichment activities.

"The Iranian regime must understand that I'm dedicated to the proposition that they should not continue their desire to enrich, as will be people that follow me in office," the president said.

"There is universal concern about Iranian ambition here in America. This is not a party issue, an issue between one party or the other," he said.

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