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No Sign Of Compromise In Iranian Nuclear Crisis As UN Deadline Looms

In his speech, Ahmadinejad said any attempt to coerce Iran into giving up its nuclear programme was doomed to failure. "If they think they can create division among Iranians with their bullying, attempts and plots, they should know they are 100-percent wrong. "Iranians have been standing strong and will defend their nuclear rights until the end," he said. "The day that Iranians can use nuclear fuel and its production cycle fully in the agriculture, medicine and other areas, will be a big leap in the life of Iranian people." Photo courtesy AFP.Nuclear fuel delivery to Iran could be delayed: Russian official
Moscow (AFP) Feb 20 - Russia may delay delivering nuclear fuel for the nuclear power station it is building in Iran due to problems in receiving payment, a spokesman for the Russian atomic energy agency said on Tuesday. The spokesman, Sergei Novikov, referred to an announcement by officials here on Monday that Tehran had failed to keep up with payments for the ongoing construction of the Bushehr power station in southern Iran. "If the lack of finance could effect the project calendar, it will also affect the date of sending nuclear fuel," Novikov told AFP.

Novikov said that under an agreement signed last September Iran was due to pay Russia 25 million dollars (19 million euros) a month for the Bushehr project. But, he said, "in the fourth quarter of 2006, the Iranians failed to pay 60 percent of the sums foreseen by the agreement. In January they paid only 5.1 million dollars, or 20 percent of the sum anticipated, and in February they've paid nothing."

The Bushehr power station project is regarded as a symbol of Russian-Iranian ties, but has been subject to repeated delays. Under last September's agreement Russia was to deliver fuel to Iran in March and the power station would begin working in September and start producing energy in November. On Monday Tehran denied the accusation by the lead contractor on the project, Atomstroiexport, that it had delayed payments. The United States has urged Russia to suspend construction due to suspicions that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says that its nuclear programme is only aimed at civilian energy production.

by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Feb 20, 2007
A UN deadline for Iran to halt nuclear enrichment loomed large Tuesday, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refusing to bow to pressure amid talks in Vienna aimed at defusing the crisis. On the eve of the deadline's expiry on Wednesday, a defiant Ahmadinejad told a rally in the northern Iranian province of Gilan that Iran would only offer to halt uranium enrichment if other nuclear powers agreed to do the same.

"We are in favour of dialogue. But in order for us to talk they are imposing a condition that would deprive us of our right," Ahmadinejad said in the provincial capital Rasht.

"If they say that our nuclear production plant and its fuel cycle should be shut down, this is no problem. But justice necessitates that those who want to negotiate should halt their own nuclear fuel cycles," he said.

His remarks were summarily dismissed in Washington.

"Do you believe that's a serious offer?" responded White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Snow declined to comment on whether Iran might face additional sanctions if it failed to meet the UN deadline and said Washington was waiting for a report from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei.

"We'll see what the IAEA has to report," Snow told reporters.

ElBaradei met in Vienna on Tuesday evening with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who told reporters that he as "looking for the ways and means to start negotiations."

ElBaradei is to report by Friday on whether Iran has stopped enrichment, and this finding will be reviewed at an IAEA board of governors meeting on March 6.

Iranian defiance could lead to tougher sanctions.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, a charge denied by Tehran, which insists its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.

Although Washington has said it wants the nuclear standoff resolved through diplomacy, it has never ruled out military action to thwart Iran's atomic drive.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad said any attempt to coerce Iran into giving up its nuclear programme was doomed to failure.

"If they think they can create division among Iranians with their bullying, attempts and plots, they should know they are 100-percent wrong.

"Iranians have been standing strong and will defend their nuclear rights until the end," he said.

"The day that Iranians can use nuclear fuel and its production cycle fully in the agriculture, medicine and other areas, will be a big leap in the life of Iranian people," Ahmadinejad added.

ElBaradei has proposed a "timeout" in the nuclear standoff that would see Iran suspending enrichment and the UN simultaneously suspending its sanctions.

According to diplomats here, Larijani has over the past 10 days proposed that Iran spin empty the centrifuges that enrich uranium, rather than load them with the feedstock gas for refining uranium.

The United States rejects such compromises, saying they would still give Iran experience in enrichment that could be used to make weapons, the diplomats said.

ElBaradei told the Financial Times in an interview published Tuesday that Iran may be able to enrich uranium on a mass scale in just six months, although it could still be 10 years away from the capacity to build a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Russian atomic energy agency said Tuesday that Moscow may delay delivering nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power station it is building in southern Iran due to problems in receiving payment.

"If the lack of finance could effect the project calendar, it will also affect the date of sending nuclear fuel," Novikov told AFP.

earlier related report
Iranian nuclear negotiator warns West against use of force
Vienna (AFP) Feb 20 - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, warned Tuesday ahead of a UN deadline for Tehran to halt unranium enrichment that any attempt to force the issue would be met with "an appropriate response". Following talks in Vienna with UN atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, Larijani also made it clear that Iran was giving no thought to suspending enrichment activities despite the expiry of the deadline on Wednesday.

"The important issue is not suspension," he said after the meeting at the Vienna residence of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief ElBaradei.

"What should be important to you is to have Iran's activities within the framework of the IAEA and under the supervision of the inspectors of the agency," he said.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, a charge denied by Tehran, which insists its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.

Although Washington has said it wants the nuclear standoff resolved through diplomacy, it has never ruled out military action to thwart Iran's atomic drive.

Larijani stressed that no attempt should be made to resolve the issue through "force and pressure" and warned that Tehran would respond in kind.

"Anybody interested in non-conventional or illogical, irrational (moves) would definitely receive an appropriate response," he said, adding that any international concerns over the "possible deviation" of Iran's enrichment activities could be settled "at the negotiating table."

ElBaradei is to report to the UN Security Council by Friday on whether Iran has stopped enrichment, and this finding will be reviewed at an IAEA board of governors meeting on March 6.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Iran War Games As US Carrier Moves In To Gulf Region
Tehran (AFP) Feb 20, 2007
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday staged a war game simulating an enemy air strike as a second nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier arrived in regional waters in an apparent warning to Tehran. The Revolutionary Guards land forces fought back the hypothetical air strike from enemy helicopters, planes and missiles with 620 anti-aircraft cannon and shoulder missiles, state television said.







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