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. Iran's Khamenei to US: nuclear programme is none of your business
TEHRAN (AFP) May 01, 2005
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday in comments apparently directed at the United States that the Islamic republic's nuclear programme was "none of your business".

In a speech carried on state television, the all-powerful Khamenei also said that the June presidential election would not bring any change to Iran's determination to press on with its controversial atomic actvities.

"The shameless arrogance and rudeness has gone so far that it has given rise to such comments that Iran does not need nuclear technology. This is none of your business," he told a gathering in the southern city of Kerman.

"You do not have the right to judge if a nation needs nuclear energy or not," he said.

His comments came the day after Iran said it was unhappy with the progress of nuclear negotiations with Britain, France and Germany, and warned it may resume uranium conversion activities next week in defiance of a key agreement.

Uranium conversion -- or turning raw uranium into a gas to be fed into centrifuges for the enrichment process -- is covered by a freeze agreed to by Iran in November 2004 as a confidence-building measure.

That deal that kick-started a series of talks with the so-called EU-3 that are aimed at easing international fears the Islamic republic is seeking an enrichment capacity so it could also produce an atomic bomb.

The EU, backed by the United States, wants Iran to halt all nuclear fuel cycle activities. In return, it is offering a package of trade, security and technology incentives.

But after the latest round of talks in London on Friday ended without an agreement, Iran accused the Europeans of trying to drag out the talks in order to prolong the suspension. However if Iran carries through its most serious challenge yet of the EU deal, it risks being hauled before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

EU diplomats have also said they hoped a longer-term deal with Iran may be possible after the June 17 presidential election, when the regime could put an end to its reformist-hardline tensions and find it easier to deal with the West.

But this idea was dismissed by Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state.

"The spokespersons of the arrogant power say they are waiting for Iran's elections to be carried out and then they will decide on the issue of peaceful nuclear energy in Iran. But what have Iran's elections got to do with you?" Khamenei said.

"Anyone who is chosen by this people as the president will not want to move against the national interests, and the people would not allow this either," he added.

"What the US says is 'submit to our domination, our intervention, our presence and our grip over your country and resources, and if not, we will accuse you of terrorism and of being against human rights'," Khamenei said.

But he added that Iran "will stand against anyone who threatens our independence, identity, national interests... and will punch them in the mouth."

Iran has said repeatedly that its enrichment suspension is temporary and voluntary, as it insists on its right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct nuclear activities for peaceful purposes.

The country insists it only wants to generate nuclear power in order to meet increased domestic energy demands and reduce its dependence on oil and gas -- a vital source of hard currency.

It has been subject to more than two years of investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has discovered plenty of suspicious nuclear activity but no "smoking gun" that proves a weapons drive.

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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