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. Iran will respond to sanctions: Ahmadinejad
TEHRAN, Dec 11 (AFP) Dec 11, 2006
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Monday that Iran would respond to any action against its nuclear activities amid growing signs of a consensus on UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

"From now on, considering your insistence on confronting the Iranian nation, we consider this move of yours as hostile and will act accordingly," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

"Britain and the United States should know that the Iranian nation will reach the zenith of nuclear technology without (paying) the slightest price and conquer this zenith with pride," the defiant president said.

Tehran has consistently refused to accept international demands to halt its controversial enrichment of uranium. The West fears this could be diverted to developing nuclear weapons, but Iran insists it is for energy purposes only.

The debate over how to punish Iran for its refusal was scheduled to resume in New York on Monday with Western diplomats confident that the UN Security Council will approve targeted sanctions against Tehran by Christmas.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed Monday an amended draft UN resolution targeting Iran's nuclear programme, saying it was now based on "Russia's proposals," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The head of Russia's nuclear agency Sergei Kiriyenko, visiting Tehran, stressed that Iran's nuclear issue must be settled by "diplomacy" while Iran should also work to relieve international worries.

"Every country, including the Islamic republic, has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear programme, but at the same time the concerns of the international community should be removed," he told reporters.

"There should be flexibility," he said, noting that "Russia's stance has not changed".

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said after talks with Kiriyenko that Tehran was counting on Moscow, "whose stance is different from others", to help resolve the nuclear showdown.

In a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Iran's atomic agency chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh said that there was no change in the schedule to complete Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant that is being built by Russia.

"The political desire of the two countries is to operate Bushehr plant at the slated time," Aghazadeh was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

Moscow is due to complete the Iran's long-delayed first nuclear power station in September 2007 and deliver the nuclear fuel in the last Iranian month (starting February 20) of its current calendar year.

"So far, there has been no change made in the schedule for sending the fuel (to Iran)," Aghazadeh noted.

When asked if what would happen if Russia does not make the scheduled delivery, Aghazadeh said: "Let us not judge now. However, if so, Russia will not create a good record from itself."

For his part, Kiriyenko accepted that there were some progress in Bushehr operations "but not enough".

Iran signed up Russian nuclear industry construction firm Atomstroiexport in 1995 for a contract worth some 800 million dollars.

Iran says the launch date for the reactor has been delayed several times. Moscow began building Bushehr in 1998.

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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