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September 8, 2009

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Iran stays firm over 'nuclear rights'

IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Tehran yesterday that Iran would neither halt uranium enrichment nor negotiate over its nuclear rights but was ready to talk with world powers over "global challenges."

His statements came as the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warned of a "stalemate" over Iran's nuclear program. Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency began meetings in Vienna that could set the stage for a toughening of sanctions against Iran.

Ahmadinejad also said Iran would present a package of proposals for talks to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany but rejected any deadline for such negotiations.

He said the package would "identify challenges facing humanity and resolve global concerns."

But he said that "from our point of view, Iran's nuclear issue is over. We continue our work within the framework of global regulations and in close interaction with the International Atomic Energy Agency."

But "we will never negotiate over obvious rights of the Iranian nation."

He said the only two aspects of the nuclear file he was willing to discuss were "creating peaceful nuclear energy for all countries" and a mechanism to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and encourage global nuclear disarmament.

United States President Barack Obama and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities.

If not, Iran could face harsher punitive sanctions.

The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.

Iran has repeatedly vowed it will never suspend enrichment work, saying it has every right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel. The enrichment process can produce either fuel for a reactor or the material for a warhead.

"It is very clear that this (deadline) is incompatible with the Iranian nation's needs and direction today," Ahmadinejad told a press conference yesterday. "Resolving global issues requires constructive interaction on the basis of justice and respect."

He said Iran would continue to cooperate with the IAEA over rules on safeguards on its nuclear sites, "but we will resist if the agency is influenced by political pressures."

The agency's chief Mohamed ElBaradei, however, said yesterday that the situation over Iran's nuclear program had reached a "stalemate."

He said Iran had not suspended uranium enrichment and not cleared up other lingering questions about possible military dimensions of its atomic activities.


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