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. Iran rejects accelerated UN talks on its nuclear program
CARACAS, Sept 18 (AFP) Sep 19, 2006
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected speeding up negotiations with world powers over its disputed nuclear program during a visit to Venezuela on Monday.

Talks "are continuing, and I see no reason to speed them up," he said at a press conference before departing Venezuela for the UN General Assembly in New York.

"Iran's nuclear program is very clear and very transparent," the president said. "We have always said that we are willing to negotiate with any country."

If nuclear energy "is something good then everyone should have it, and if it is bad then nobody should have it," he said at the end of his two-day visit.

Ahmadinejad accused Western powers of wanting to control nuclear technology "and when another country needs it they sell it at a high price."

Ahmadinejad's comments came as France offered a key concession to Iran, with French President Jacques Chirac saying world powers should be ready to talk to Iran without threatening sanctions -- even if Tehran fails to halt uranium enrichment ahead of the negotiations.

The United States and other Western countries fear that Iran's uranium enrichment work could be used to develop a nuclear bomb.

Washington is pushing for United Nations sanctions to force Tehran to halt the program after Iran ignored a UN resolution that gave it until August 31 to stop enrichment activities. Tehran insists that it seeks peaceful nuclear power to meet its energy needs.

Countries that oppose Iran's uranium enrichment program "want to be an obstacle to the development of our people," the Iranian president said.

Ahmadinejad also blasted the "injustice" of the current United Nations system that allows for five unelected permanent Security Council members with veto rights.

In New York, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that he will meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani this week in New York and that key progress had been made in talks.

Solana, who has been negotiating for the six major powers to try to resolve the standoff with Iran, did not give a date for the meeting but he is scheduled to leave New York on Friday.

Ahmadinejad was headed to New York where he will address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

During his Venezuela visit, Ahmadinejad signed energy agreements and inaugurated an Iranian-Venezuelan oil well along with President Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan president, who shares Ahmadinejad's hostility towards the United States, accused Washington of preparing to attack Iran over its nuclear program.

The United States was "ready for aggression against Iran" and said Tehran had the right to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

"They view Iran as a terrorist state and radical dictatorship with nuclear arms," said Chavez, who Washington has accused of destabilizing Latin America.

The US administration has said it will pursue a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions but has refused to rule out possible military action.

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