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. Iran snubs US incentives, vows to continue nuclear programme
TEHRAN (AFP) Mar 12, 2005
Iran said Saturday it was determined to press on with its nuclear programme, snubbing an announcement by the United States that it would offer Tehran incentives to halt sensitive fuel cycle work.

"The Islamic republic of Iran is determined to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and no pressure, bribe or threat can make Iran give up its legitimate right," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement.

Washington announced Friday it would it would drop objections to Iran joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and consider allowing it access to spare parts for its decrepit fleet of civilian aircraft.

US President George W. Bush said the initiative was aimed at helping efforts by Britain, France and Germany to persuade Iran to abandon uranium enrichment, which could provide Tehran's clerical regime with the capacity to build a bomb.

"I look forward to working with our European friends to make it abundantly clear to the Iranian regime that the free world will not tolerate them having a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

Vice President Dick Cheney warned Friday that Washington would not hesitate to take "stronger action" if Tehran did not abandon suspected nuclear ambitions.

But Asefi said "the remedying of some of the faults and the addressing some of the restrictions that were imposed on the Islamic republic of Iran without any cause will not prevent Iran from getting its legitimate right.

"The restrictions regarding (aircraft) spare parts that were of no military use should have not been imposed from the beginning, and lifting them is not an incentive," he said.

"Getting into the WTO is the right of all countries of the world," he added, complaining that "whereas (US Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice talks about the lifting of some of the restrictions, Bush extends economic sanctions against Iran."

The United States accuses Iran of using an atomic energy drive as a convenient cover for weapons development, a charge Iran fiercely denies. Iran points out that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows fuel cycle work for peaceful purposes.

"Lies and hypocrisy have become the principal nucleus of US foriegn policy," Asefi fumed. He claimed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog that monitors the NPT, has "frequently reported that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful."

Also striking a defiant tone was Defence Minister Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani.

"We are ready to confront any threats, and protecting nuclear installations is a part of this equation," he was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. "We will defend our nuclear installations with all our capacity."

Shamkhani also warned that "up until now we have shown self-control."

Sharing US concerns, the so-called EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany have been trying to secure a permanent halt of enrichment as an "objective guarantee" that Iran will not acquire the bomb.

In exchange they are offering a package of trade, security, diplomatic and technology incentives, a diplomatic effort that the United States had been reluctant to join.

Asefi's comments came just hours after US officials emphasised that the ball was now in Tehran's court.

"The Iranians need to take the opportunity that the Europeans are presenting them with to demonstrate that they're prepared to live up to their international obligations," Rice said.

According to a source close to the White House, a European pledge to take the matter before the UN Security Council if Iran does not renounce its enrichment and reprocessing activities was one of the key factors in the US decision to offer incentives.

They also came in the wake of the latest round of Iran-EU talks in Geneva, which ended Friday still deadlocked over the question of enrichment.

Iran and the EU-3 have held four rounds of negotiations since December, a month after Iran agreed to a "temporary" suspension of uranium enrichment.

In a two-year probe of Iran's nuclear activities, the IAEA has uncovered plenty of activity deemed suspect -- such as shopping on the black market for dual-use equipment and failing to report sensitive activities -- but no "smoking gun".

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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