02/10/2005, 00.00

Khatami says Iran won't give up N-power, warns of consequences

Tehran says it wants atomic energy for 'peaceful purposes' but concealed its programme for 18 years.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – "Neither my government, nor any other [Iranian] government can give a convincing reply to people [who seek our] giving up peaceful nuclear technology," Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said yesterday. Mr Khatami warned European countries of "heavy consequences" if nuclear talks fail.

"We will give guarantees that we are not moving towards the construction of a nuclear weapon as it is something that we are against but we will never renounce civilian nuclear technology," he said in a speech before the diplomatic corps.

"We believe that enrichment is a very clear right that we will never renounce," he added. Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear power, but the technology behind it can also be used to develop weapons-grade nuclear material.

Recently, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that a US attack on Iran is not on the agenda "at this point".

Talks are currently underway between Iran and three European countries—France, Germany and the United Kingdom—about Iran's nuclear programme. These talks are likely to reach a conclusion this July.

According to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 to which Iran is a party, countries that lacked nuclear technology in 1968 are allowed only to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. A United Nations agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has the right to inspect the nuclear facilities of any country who signed the treaty, including Iran's.

In 2002, Iran was forced to admit that for 18 years it had been secretly developing the ability to enrich uranium, the first step in building a nuclear device.

Iran suspended the enrichment of uranium on November 22, three days before the IAEA was to submit a report to the UN Security Council revealing that the Islamic Republic was not open enough about its nuclear programme

Among Iran's ruling political class, there is a consensus about the country's nuclear ambitions.

Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani denounced what he called the "bullying by the IAEA" stressing that "Israel has stockpiled banned nuclear weapons without any protest or opposition from the IAEA".

Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, called on all Iranians to rally en masse today, February 10, which is the 26th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in order "to frustrate the hopes of the enemies, including the United States and the Zionist regime." (LF)

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