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. Khamenei denies Iran seeking nuclear weapons, hits out at Bush
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 05, 2004
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday insisted that nuclear weapons were forbidden under Islam, as he lashed out against "the gang" of newly re-elected US President George W. Bush

Addressing himself directly to Bush, Khamenei said: "No sir, we are not seeking to have nuclear weapons.

"Our nuclear weapon is this country, and the youth of its people."

Khamenei was delivering a rare sermon at Friday prayers three days after Bush -- who put Iran in his "axis of evil" of dangerous states for allegedly seeking nuclear weapons -- was re-elected.

As for the arms themselves, Khamenei said that to "manufacture, possess or use them, that all poses a problem. I have expressed my religious convictions about this, and everyone knows it."

The foreign ministry has previously stated that Khamenei has issued a fatwa (religious decree) that nuclear weapons are proscribed by Islam.

However, Khamenei did not mention crucial talks in Paris, where representatives from Britain, France and Germany Friday tried to convince Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities in order to avert the threat of UN sanctions.

The United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of its civilian atomic energy program, a charge vehemently denied by Tehran.

Europe's three main powers are offering Iran nuclear technology, including access to nuclear fuel, increased trade and help with Tehran's regional security concerns if it halts enrichment.

Uranium enrichment is the process which makes fuel for civilian reactors but can also be used to manufacture the material for the explosive core of nuclear weapons.

A senior Iranian negotiator expressed optimism over the talks, while describing them as "tough".

"I am optimistic because the two parties are determined to reach an accord satisfactory to both," Hossen Mousavian told state television.

"We have some tough negotiations ahead of us," he said, adding that both sides are "serious about (reaching) a workable accord, which makes the work more complicated."

Mousavian spoke of new proposals from both sides which he said were "more concrete and achievable" than previous ones.

That "has made things more difficult for us," he said, while adding "we have reached the point where we should achieve results."

The International Atomic Energy Agency will meet on November 25 to decide whether to haul Tehran before the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

"The United States cannot stand the idea that a country gains its own independence," Khamenei said.

He did not refer directly to Bush's re-election, but two days after commemorating the 25th anniversary of the storming of the former American embassy in Tehran during the Islamic revolution, Khamenei accused Washington of involvement in "atrocities" carried out aginst Palestinians.

If a trial were held to judge such "atrocities ... Sharon and the Zionists will not be the only accused. The Bush gang, his administration and American governments will be first in line," he said.

He also laid into "the Europeans (who) are on the side of the oppressors".

Khamenei responded to recent European accusations of a deteriorating human rights situation in Iran by saying that "European governments know nothing about human rights and do not respect them."

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