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Iran to reject any offer to halt nuclear programme: Ahmadinejad

AFP file image: Inside the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Iran.
by Farhad Pouladi
Tehran, (AFP) May 14, 2006
Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that Tehran will reject any new deal offered by European powers in order to halt the Islamic republic's nuclear activities.

"Any offer which requires us to halt our peaceful nuclear activities will be invalid," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

"I am surprised that a group of people hold meetings without us being present there and make decisions for us," he added, referring to talks between Western diplomats over the nuclear standoff with Tehran.

EU powers Britain, France and Germany are considering offering a new bundle of wide-ranging incentives to Iran in return for a guarantee that it will suspend its uranium-enrichment activities, which the West suspects of being part of a covert atomic weapons program.

Their foreign ministers are due to meet along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on the issue on Monday.

"These masters believe that they are still living in the colonial era, and so their decisions are not valid for us," said Ahmadinejad, who was speaking after returning from a five-day visit to Indonesia.

"When we are not present (in the discussions), any decisions become meaningless," he added.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also vowed: "We will not back down on our rights.

"Any offer to Iran must recognise the rights of Iran and guarantee the means to exercise those rights," he told reporters.

For Iran, the right to nuclear technology means first and foremost its right to uranium enrichment, a highly sensitive process that can be used both for making nuclear fuel and in a weapons program.

According to Ahmadinejad, the "best incentives" for cooperation from Tehran would be the implementation of parts of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which recognise the right of signatory states to do research on and produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Such a view is not held by the Western powers, which are also pushing for a UN Security Council resolution that would make a suspension of enrichment legally binding. Iran has vowed to ignore any such resolution.

Diplomats said negotiators from the Security Council's permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- plus Germany plan to meet in London next Friday to weigh a new package of incentives as well as penalties.

Although the United States has repeatedly said it wants to see the crisis resolved through diplomacy, US administration officials have refused to rule out the option of military action.

The so-called EU-3 have already tried but failed to use incentives to coax Iran into agreeing to a moratorium on fuel work.

Iran says it has also already enriched uranium to 4.8 percent, sufficient to make nuclear fuel for a power station -- progress that it argues the Western world needs to accept.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Thursday that Israel will "one day vanish," ramping up the stakes in the midst of frantic international diplomacy over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. In speeches to students in Jakarta, he shrugged off the threat of sanctions or even war and accused the West of peddling lies and oppression.

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