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. Iran encourages North Korean nuclear work with free oil and gas offer
BERLIN (AFP) Nov 26, 2005
Iran encouraged North Korea to pursue its nuclear programme with an offer of free oil and natural gas, according to a press report quoting Western intelligence officials.

A senior Iranian official who presides over a group called the Iranian-North Korean Friendship Society made the offer during a visit to North Korea in mid-October, German magazine Der Spiegel reported in its latest issue to be released Monday.

Intelligence officials were not sure how to react to the proposal, which could have allowed the Stalinist state breathing space in its drawn-out negotiations with neighbouring China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, the magazine said.

On September 19, North Korea agreed in principle to halt its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for economic and diplomatic benefits, but it later declared it would do so only after it had obtained a light-water reactor for electricity production.

On Wednesday, a US-led international consortium called a halt to construction of two light-water reactors promised under a 1994 deal to divert Pyongyang from its atomic bomb drive.

Tehran's oil and gas offer had a double objective, Der Spiegel said.

Iran wanted to continue cooperating with Pyongyang on ballistic missiles because it's Shahab III missiles were based on North Korean technology.

And if the communist state ended its nuclear program Tehran would be exposed to increased UN pressure to accept restrictions, the magazine said.

Iran claims it has the right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium to produce fuel for electricity production, but Western powers fear the material could also be diverted to make atomic weapons.

Tehran has spurned a compromise offer from Russia to enrich uranium on Iran's behalf.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday postponed taking Iran to the Security Council to allow more time for Russian diplomacy to resolve the standoff.

In a fiery speech on Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blasted attempts by Western powers to limit its nuclear ambitions.

"Who has given you the right to prevent Iran from acquiring the nuclear technology?" he told a 25th anniversary parade of the Basij revolutionary militia.

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