Iran Nuclear NewsAhmadinejad reiterates Iran right to nuke program

Ahmadinejad reiterates Iran right to nuke program

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ImageAP: Iran will persist with its nuclear program despite international concerns, the country's president said Tuesday, as the world awaited Tehran's response to a nuclear deal that could ease tensions with the West. The Associated Press

By NASSER KARIMI

ImageTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran will persist with its nuclear program despite international concerns, the country's president said Tuesday, as the world awaited Tehran's response to a nuclear deal that could ease tensions with the West.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has long insisted Iran has a right to pursue its nuclear ambitions, but the remarks Tuesday were his first since the U.N.-drafted offer was put forth last week.

Ahmadinejad did not directly refer to the draft, but his comments could indicate Iran's hardening stance toward the U.N. proposal. Tehran is expected to respond to the offer this week.

The plan envisages Iran sending out most of uranium abroad for enrichment, which would reduce its stockpile and limit Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon.

Ahmadinejad on Tuesday lashed out at archenemy Israel, which is believed to have nuclear weapons.

"When an illegal regime has atomic weapons, it's impossible to block others from the right to have peaceful nuclear energy," Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The remarks came as U.N. inspectors are visiting a formerly secret uranium enrichment site in Iran.

Fears about the nature of Iran's nuclear program were heightened in September with the disclosure of a uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom. U.N. inspectors made their first visit to the site on Sunday, kicking off a three-day mission that will include taking soil samples from the site. No results on their findings were expected until they leave Iran later this week.

Iran agreed to the inspections during a landmark meeting with the U.S. and other world powers at the beginning of October in Geneva, where the idea of Tehran shipping uranium to Russia for further enrichment was first raised.

The draft U.N. plan was formalized last week after Iran held talks in Vienna with the United States, Russia and France.

Under the draft, Iran is required to send 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium to Russia in one batch by the end of the year in order to receive the nuclear fuel it needs for a research reactor that makes medical isotopes.

On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad also praised Erdogan's stance over Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the Turkish leader's "clear stance toward the Zionist regime has had a positive impact on the world of Islam."

At an international conference in January, Erdogan strongly condemned Israel's offensive in Gaza and the steep Palestinian casualties inflicted there. The Iranian leader is known for his anti-Israeli remarks since 2005, when he said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."

Iran's stance on the plan has so far been unclear.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hinted Monday Tehran could agree to ship some of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for processing as reactor fuel — but also left the possibility open that Iran may snub the proposal altogether.

A partial acquiescence to the offer is unlikely to defuse the controversy or allay Western concerns over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

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