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. Rafsanjani says Iran will pursue nuclear progamme 'at all costs'
TEHRAN (AFP) Apr 29, 2005
Iran's powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani insisted Friday ahead of renewed talks with Europe that Tehran would pursue its atomic energy programme including uranium enrichment "at all costs".

"Iran wants to possess all the branches of nuclear technology, including enrichment, and it will do so at all costs," he said at the weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran.

"The Iranian nation ... considers itself strong enough to defend its rights, and not to let you (Europeans) impose any permanent suspension on uranium enrichment," said Rafsanjani, whose sermon was broadcast live on state radio.

"I am telling the Europeans that their current effort of dealing with the nuclear case under US pressure will not bear good results," said Rafsanjani.

"We will be patient and we will continue these lengthy and fruitless negotiations until you are persuaded that we are not seeking nuclear weapons," he said.

"I am talking to the Europeans and the US, and I am telling you that you are facing a srong Muslim nation, so instead of bullying us it is better to talk in order to remove ambiguities."

Both sides feel the nuclear negotiations are basically on hold until after the Iranian presidential elections in June, according to diplomats. Rafsanjani said Thursday he had still not decided whether to run in the polls.

In London, an Iranian negotiator warned that time for talks was running out, ahead of the meeting with the EU over Tehran's insistence to enrich uranium, a fuel for nuclear power plants which can also be used to make atom bombs.

"Time is much shorter than the Europeans think," Cyrus Nasseri told AFP. "Our point is we simply do not have much time. We have a fuel programme and we can't hold it much further."

The Islamic republic, which insists its programme is for energy use alone, has suspended uranium enrichment as a confidence-building measure for European Union-Iran talks that started in December.

A new round was to be held behind closed doors later Friday in the British capital.

Tehran is now waiting for an answer from EU negotiators Britain, Germany and France to a proposal that would allow it to enrich uranium, a process that makes fuel for nuclear power reactors, but on a limited scale.

In highly refined form, it can also form the explosive core of atom bombs.

The European trio is holding fast to its position that Iran must give up on all nuclear fuel activity in order to provide "objective guarantees" that it will not make atomic weapons, diplomats said.

The United States, which backs the EU diplomatic initiative but is not party to the talks, accuses Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Tehran.

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