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. Iran refuses to yield on nuclear ahead of Solana trip
TEHRAN, June 11 (AFP) Jun 11, 2008
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday refused to back down over Iran's nuclear programme, days ahead of a trip to Tehran by the EU foreign policy chief in search of a compromise in the crisis.

Iran will not trade its "dignity" in its nuclear programme, Ahmadinejad said, in an apparent refusal to consider the main demand of world powers over his country's nuclear programme.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will visit Tehran on Saturday and Sunday in an effort to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, his spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"They think they can trample on the Iranian nation's dignity with such things," the ISNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in a speech in the province of Chaharmahal Bakhtiari, referring to incentive offers by the West.

"We will not trade our dignity with anything. If they want to give us something, then they should sell it and we will buy it."

In Brussels, Solana told a news briefing: "We hope very much there will be a positive outcome" from the meeting in Iran.

Asked what would constitute a "positive outcome," Solana replied: "I think the meeting will not be the end. We will continue and have other meetings in the foreseeable future.

"It is very important that the nuclear issue is resolved in a manner that the international community will have objective guarantees of the nature of the nuclear programme," Solana added.

Ahmadinejad's blunt comments, however, appear to be his latest affirmation Iran has no intention of halting sensitive uranium enrichment activities in its nuclear drive, which Western countries fear could be used to make an atomic bomb.

"The enemies are worried to see that the Iranian nation has preserved its dignity and become a model for other countries. They want to force the Iranians to back down," Ahmadinejad continued.

"But the Iranian nation will leave them waiting for Iran to back down and the enemies will never reach this goal."

Iran vehemently rejects Western allegations that it is seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants only electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.

On Tuesday, Bush and European leaders warned Iran of new sanctions if it refuses to halt sensitive nuclear activities.

In an earlier speech, Ahmadinejad openly mocked what he said was Bush's desire for military action against Tehran, saying the US president could not hurt "even one centimetre" of the country.

"I tell Bush ... that your era has ended and, thank God, you will not be able to damage even one centimetre of the holy land of Iran," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in the city of Shahr-e Kord.

As well as advocating tough diplomatic action, the United States has never ruled out a military strike against Tehran in the face of its refusal to heed successive UN Security Council ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment.

Speaking in Germany on Wednesday after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bush said: "All options are on the table and my first choice is to solve this diplomatically.

"We'll see what choice they make," he said. "We'll give diplomacy a chance to work."

Several political officials in Berlin, including leading figures from Merkel's own conservative party, said Bush, who steps down next January, would not be missed.

"The disaster after the war in Iraq caused serious damage to the image of the United States, and not just in Germany," the foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Union's parliamentary group, Eckart von Klaeden, said.

Ahmadinejad said Bush wanted to attack Iran but had been scared off by objections from military commanders.

"I have precise news that one of this man's (Bush's) wishes... is to strike us," the president said.

"He argued with US military commanders to first use missiles and bombs. They told him it is not possible. Then he said 'let's make a sonic boom over an Iranian city'... but this also could not happen."

Using typically earthy rhetoric, Ahmadinejad said that Bush was still "itching to pinch and punch the Iranian nation."

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