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. Iran vows to win nuclear tussle with West
TEHRAN, Jan 30 (AFP) Jan 30, 2008
A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Tehran was nearing its target of producing nuclear energy and launched a new tirade against Israel as world powers seek to impose new sanctions on Iran.

"We are moving towards the summit on the nuclear path," he said in a speech in Bushehr, the site of Iran's first nuclear power plant which Tehran expects to be commissioned in October.

"Iranians... will not back down one iota in defence of their rights," Ahmadinejad told cheering crowds.

Iran has been slapped with two sets of UN sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and a third package is currently being considered by the Security Council.

But Ahmadinejad said: "The nuclear issue was the most important challenge since the (1979 Islamic) revolution but with the help of God and your resistance, it is ending in favour of the Iranian nation."

The West fears that Iran is using its nuclear drive to try to build atomic weapons, a charge Tehran has consistently denied, saying it is aimed at generating electricity.

Uranium enrichment is a process which makes nuclear fuel but can also be diverted to produce the fissile core of atomic bombs.

The Security Council on Monday held informal talks on a third sanctions resolution, a draft of which was agreed by the five veto-wielding permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and United States -- plus Germany.

The proposed new measures include an outright travel ban by officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programmes and inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.

Ahmadinejad also renewed his verbal attack on arch-foe Israel, saying the days of the "filthy Zionist entity" were numbered.

"I advise you to abandon the filthy Zionist entity which has reached the end of the line," Ahmadinejad told world powers of the Jewish state which Tehran does not recognise.

"It has lost its reason to be and will sooner or later fall," he predicted. "The ones who still support the criminal Zionists should know that the occupiers' days are numbered."

Israel, which is regarded as the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed power, has called for tougher sanctions on Tehran and its Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said all options are on the table to prevent "an Iranian bomb."

Diplomats in New York have said approval of the sanctions package, presented to the council's 10 non-permanent members on Friday, was likely to take several weeks.

Iran insists the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose board of governors meets in March, will confirm that its nuclear activities have not deviated toward weapons development.

Despite a four-year probe into Tehran's atomic drive, the UN nuclear watchdog has so far been unable to certify whether it is peaceful.

But in January 13, the IAEA announced that Iran had agreed to clear up remaining questions on its nuclear programme -- including any military activity -- by mid-February.

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran says it has a right to the nuclear fuel cycle, while its first nuclear power plant, built by Russia in the southern Gulf city of Bushehr, is yet to go online.

An Iranian official told reporters on Wednesday that the Bushehr plant would be commissioned in October 2008.

Ahmad Fayazbakhsh, managing director of Iran's Production and Development of Nuclear Energy Company, said the date for the plant's electricity to join the national power grid would be announced after the commissioning.

Russia completed fuel deliveries for the plant on Monday and said it would "ideally" go online this year.

Fayazbakhsh said that Russia still had to send about 1,900 tonnes of equipment including precision instruments and ventilation systems for the plant.

After delivering the first shipment of fuel in December, Russia said Iran no longer needed to pursue its own uranium enrichment, a message repeated by US President George W. Bush.

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