By Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran on Friday stood firm against intense new international pressure over its disputed nuclear programme, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned the West against staging an attack.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that Iran must defend its right to nuclear power as world powers demanded urgent talks with Tehran on its nuclear drive and Washington insisted there was nothing in its new proposals.
"We must stand firm for our rights. If we give up our rights, whether nuclear or other rights, this will lead to decline" of society, said Khamenei, who has the final say in all national issues.
"We will walk the path of decline if instead of using freedom for scientific and ethical progress, we use it to spread sin, instead of standing against arrogance, aggressors and international looters, we feel weak in front of them and retreat, and instead of frowning at them we smile at them."
He spoke two days after Tehran delivered a new package of proposals to six world powers to help resolve the stalemate over its atomic drive.
The so-called P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — are to seek an urgent meeting with Tehran, Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, said.
She said the six would meanwhile continue to examine the latest proposals from Tehran, with which they still wanted "substantive negotiations."
The urgent meeting could take the form of talks between Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Solana, who regularly represents the six powers.
"We are in contact with Dr Jalili's office to arrange a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity," Solana said in a statement.
France said Iran has not responded to requests for talks on its nuclear programme, and called on Tehran to attend a multilateral meeting before the UN General Assembly later this month.
Iran's package "does not constitute a response to the proposals for negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme," foreign ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages said in Paris.
The world powers have given Tehran a late September deadline to begin negotiations or face more sanctions. Tehran is already under three sets of UN sanctions.
Washington has also expressed disappointment over Iran's package.
"It is not really responsive to our greatest concern, which is obviously Iran's nuclear programme," Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters on Thursday.
A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added later: "There's nothing really new in the package itself."
Iran's proposals were delivered to representatives of the P5+1, tasked with persuading Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment which they suspect is for atomic weapons. Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.
While warning that any attack on Iran over its nuclear project would be unacceptable, Russia's Putin also urged Tehran to show restraint.
"This would be very dangerous, unacceptable, this would lead to an explosion of terrorism, increase the influence of extremists," he said when asked about the possibility of an attack.
"I doubt very much that such strikes would achieve their stated goal.
"The Iranians should show restraint in their nuclear programme. We have told Iran that it has the right to a civilian nuclear programme but that it should understand what region of the world it is in," Putin said.
"This is a dangerous region and Iran should show responsibility, especially by taking into account Israel's concerns, all the more so after the absolutely unacceptable statements about the destruction of the state of Israel."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Jewish state is doomed to be "wiped off the map."
Israel is widely considered to be the Middle East's sole — if undeclared — nuclear power.
A US non-profit investigative journalism group, Pro Publica, said it had obtained a copy of Iran's closely-held five-page proposal, in which Tehran said it was prepared to hold "comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations."
The talks would address nuclear disarmament as well as a global framework for the use of "clean nuclear energy," according to the document published on Pro Publica's website, but it did not address Iran's own nuclear programme.