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. Iran rejects limits on "peaceful" nuclear technology
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 12, 2004
Iran said Sunday it would not accept any limitations on its right to master "peaceful" nuclear technology, amid fresh calls at the UN nuclear watchdog for it to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also announced that the Islamic republic's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had issued an edict banning the use of nuclear weapons, pledging that nobody in Iran was seeking the bomb.

"Using nuclear weapons is haram (forbidden). The supreme leader (Khamenei) has issued a fatwa on this. No group in this country is thinking of acquiring nuclear weapons," Asefi said.

When asked if Iran had offered concessions on building centrifuge components during talks with the European Union, he said: "Nothing official from the Islamic republic has been said or announced in this regard so far.

"If the Europeans and the international community want assurances that nuclear technology will be used for peaceful purposes, we are ready to give assurances within the framework of the additional protocol."

Iran is accused by the United States of trying secretly to develop nuclear weapons, but the clerical regime insists it is merely trying to generate electricity.

Washington meanwhile reiterated its determination to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, but insisted it wanted a peaceful solution to the standoff.

"President (George W.) Bush is determined to try and find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons," Under Secretary of State John Bolton, who is responsible for nuclear proliferation issues, told reporters after talks in Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said: "We are determined that they are not going to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.

"Everyone is aware of the fact that it will be a less stable world and we will be living in a nightmare if Iran gets its hands on such weapons," he told public radio.

Israel itself refuses to confirm it has a nuclear arsenal estimated to number some 200 warheads.

Diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna said Saturday that Britain, France and Germany were ready to set a November deadline for Iran to allay suspicions it is secretly making nuclear weapons.

A draft resolution calling on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities is due to be considered by the IAEA Monday.

The draft brings the three European powers -- which have been trying to broker Iranian cooperation with the UN watchdog -- closer to the US hard line.

The issue of enrichment and the wider nuclear fuel cycle is at the heart of international concerns. Uranium can be enriched through centrifuges into a highly refined form that can be used as fuel for civilian reactors or to make an atomic bomb.

Nuclear fuel cycle work for peaceful purposes is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but there are worries Iran could master this and then use it for military purposes.

The three European nations have been trying to get Iran to agree to surrender its enrichment programme in return for a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel and increased trade. Iran has only agreed to suspend enrichment pending the completion of the IAEA investigation.

President Mohammad Khatami said Sunday that Russia had decided to push ahead with its nuclear cooperation with Iran, particularly construction of a nuclear reactor in the Gulf port of Bushehr.

"Thankfully, despite all the pressure that is being put on Russia from all sides -- including that from the United States -- Russia has bravely declared that it is ready to cooperate with Iran," Khatami told reporters during a visit to the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan.

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