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. Iran unwilling to suspend nuclear development: Rafsanjani
WASHINGTON (AFP) Jun 05, 2005
Iranian presidential election frontrunner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in an interview out Sunday that Iran is not "willing to suspend" nuclear development, but that Tehran is ready to offer greater assurances that it will not turn a civilian system into a military nuclear program.

"No, we're not willing to suspend. But we're ready to provide greater assurances to the world that we won't move from peaceful nuclear technology to military technology," Rafsanjani said in an interview with Time magazine released Sunday.

"If we need time and negotiations for creating this confidence, we're prepared. Our key policy is that the world move toward total nuclear disarmament," said Rafsanjani, president of Iran from 1989 to 1997.

The United States charges that Iran is using its civilian atomic program to hide the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran has temporarily suspended uranium enrichment, but insists it has the right to carry out this process within the framework of a peaceful nuclear program.

According to informal opinion polls in the Iranian press Rafsanjani currently leads the eight regime-approved candidates hoping to succeed incumbent reformist President Mohammad Khatami in the June 17 vote.

Rafsanjani also said he was ready to work with the United States.

"We don't have any problems with the people and the country of the United States. Whenever there has been an opportunity for reasonable cooperation, we've seized it," Rafsanjani told Time.

"It was America that initiated the cutting of relations with Iran (in ," he said.

Rafsanjani, seen as a savvy deal-maker who favours closer ties with the West, has been playing up the US-Iran issue in the run-up to the presidential poll -- an apparent bid to draw support from many Iranians keen to see the US problem resolved.

"I certainly believe in democracy, but I believe we have to take this course step by step. But in Iran after the revolution we have always had true democracy," he said.

"Everything in Iran relies on the vote of the people. What else would be your definition of democracy beside this?" he asked.

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