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. Iran defiant on UN sanctions, plans war games
TEHRAN, Jan 21 (AFP) Jan 21, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Sunday that Iran will never bow to UN resolutions over its nuclear programme, as the military prepared for war games that will include short-range missile tests.

"Even if they adopt 10 other resolutions it will not have any effect," Ahamdinejad told parliament as he introduced a new budget for the Iranian year starting March 21.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737 on December 23 imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment -- the process which can not only make nuclear fuel, but also, in highly purified forms, produce the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Reciting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's emphatic rejection of the UN resolution on January 8, the president said: "No Iranian official has the right to back down on Iran's nuclear right."

Iranian state television revealed on its website that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards would on Monday begin three days of military exercises, 140 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Tehran.

"In these exercises we will assess the operational capabilities of Zelzal and Fajr 5 missiles," an artillery commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Majid Ayeneh, was quoted as saying.

Military sources say the Fajr 5 has a range of around 75 kilometres (45 miles), whereas the Zezal is reported to have a range of 100 to 400 kilometres (60 to 250 miles).

Iran, OPEC's second largest oil exporter, says its nuclear programme is solely aimed at meeting civilian energy needs.

But the United States, the European Union and Israel fear it could lead to Iran developing its own nuclear arsenal -- dramatically changing the balance of power in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The United States has also blamed Iran, together with Syria, for fomenting unrest in Iraq.

On Saturday, Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran's armed forces were ready for any threat to its nuclear installations, amid speculation that the United States and Israel are planning a military strike.

Echoing those sentiments, Ahmadinejad said Sunday: "They say war is coming. What war? It is all propaganda."

"The Iranian nation, the government, the parliament and the supreme leader are standing firm and we are ready for any circumstances."

Asked what he thought of an imminent move by the European Union for full and rapid implementation of UN sanctions, Ahmedinijad replied: "I find it highly unlikely for anything to happen."

"Using sanctions as a weapon is a rusty one and it will not be effective. It is a psychological war which has affected some."

EU foreign ministers, who will meet Monday in Brussels, are to agree to halt trade in nuclear-related goods with Iran, freeze the assets of those linked to the nuclear programme, and impose travel bans on certain individuals.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, during a tour of the Middle East last week, said the United States did not want a conflict with Iran, but warned that the Islamic republic was "overplaying its hand."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki, who accompanied Ahmadinejad to parliament on Sunday, said US President George W. Bush was trying to "cover up" his setbacks in the region, particularly in Iraq.

"Iran's nuclear programme is non-negotiable and we are ready to answer any ambiguities," he said, reasserting that "we do not recognise the resolution."

Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, which advises Khamenei, said the United States was inciting Iranians to rise up against the Islamic regime and to "promote a sectarian war."

Bush was pursuing a "strategy hostile to Iran (and) the coming two months will show the world this strategy," he said, according to the Al-Bayan newspaper in Dubai.

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