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. Iran will not back down in nuclear stand-off: Khamenei
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 20, 2005
Iran will "not surrender to any sort of pressure and threat", supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Tuesday, as the country faced the threat of being referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

"The great Iranian nation today, stronger than before and with a determined will to reach its aims and goals, stands solidly and will not surrender to any sort of pressure and threat," Khamenei said in a speech read out on state television.

"The president, at the United Nations and before the eyes of the world, solidly and with power outlined Iran's position which was the words of all Iranians," Khamenei said of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tough declaration to the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

"His speech meant that the Iranian nation has a powerful and unwavering will," Khamenei said.

The all-powerful leader's declaration came as Europe's top three powers -- Britain, France and Germany -- distributed a draft resolution at the UN atomic watchdog calling for Iran to be reported to the UN Security Council over potentially weapons-related nuclear fuel work.

Ahmadinejad, who in New York gave a fiery speech and refused to abandon nuclear work, also insisted on state television Monday that "our position remains the same and will not change."

"They are doing what they have to do and we are doing what we have to do," he said. "The Iranian people will retain their rights and nothing special will happen."

The emergence of the draft resolution ends weeks of speculation about how strongly the West would move to counter Iran after it resumed uranium conversion work last month.

Conversion is a precursor to enrichment, a process to make reactor fuel but which could be potentially diverted to military purposes. Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and that it had the right to this technology under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The fuel work torpedoed talks with the three EU countries, known as the EU-3, which is aimed at obtaining guarantees from Iran that it is not secretly developing nuclear weapons.

The EU-3 draft is to be given to other members of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors for review and possible revision before being submitted for a consensus decision or vote.

On Monday the United States called on Iran to resume talks with the EU-3 and return to a full freeze of fuel cycle work.

"We urge Iran to return to the negotiations as soon as possible and live up to the agreement they made with the Europeans," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"We've expressed our concerns about Iran's behaviour. Those concerns are well known. And that's why it's important for Iran to get back to negotiations and abide by what they said they would do with the Europeans, which means suspending their nuclear enrichment activities," McClellan told reporters.

But Security Council referral is opposed by Russia, China and non-aligned states which support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear activities and fear that taking Iran to the top UN body, which could impose trade sanctions, could escalate the confrontation.

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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