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. Iran will defend nuclear right to last drop of blood: cleric
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 23, 2005
Tehran's newly appointed Friday prayer leader said that his countrymen will defend their country's right to nuclear technology to their last drop of blood after talks with the European Union was revived two days ago.

"The Westerners should know that during the eight years of imposed war -- the Iran-Iraq war 1980-88 -- we did not give up an inch of our land so in the matter of nuclear energy they should know that our people will defend it to their last drop of blood," Hojatoeslam Ahmad Khatami said in his sermon broadcast live on state radio.

Khatami, a conservative cleric and a member of the Assembly of Experts -- the body which selects the supreme leader and supervises his activities -- was appointed by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei less than a week ago.

"We are not any seeking special status for ourselves, nor we will accept any oppression. As the signatory of Non-Proliferation Treaty we have been committed to it, and according to it we have rights and we will not give up our legitimate right," he added.

His sermon was accompanied by the habitual "Death to America and Death to Israel," chant by the congregators in the campus of Tehran University.

Iran resumed talks on its nuclear program with the European Union in Vienna on Wednesday, agreeing after five hours to meet again in January with the aim of agreeing on terms for further negotiations.

However, EU and Iranian officials maintained that the two sides remain far apart, with Iran insisting on its right to make nuclear fuel and the West fearful that this could be used to manufacture atom bombs.

At earlier negotiations which broke off in August, EU representatives Britain, France and Germany had offered trade and security incentives for Iran to abandon uranium enrichment.

Enrichment at one level makes fuel for power reactors, but at a higher level can produce nuclear atom bombs. Iran says it is allowed to pursue the process under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but denies it wants to make weapons.

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