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Iran's Manhattan Project Speeds Ahead By: Edmund Blair
Reuters | Wednesday, August 16, 2006


TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran would not yield to Western pressure to give up its home-grown nuclear technology.

His comments came days before an August 22 deadline Iran set itself to respond to a demand by six world powers that Tehran give up uranium enrichment in return for economic and other incentives. Iran has so far shown no signs it will accept.

"Today, we are fully mastering the nuclear fuel cycle for our peaceful atomic activities. It is a native technology... No one can take it away from us," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech to a rally in the northwestern city of Ardebil.

The United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany proposed in June to give Iran trade and technical incentives if Tehran halted all enrichment-related activities.

Iran said it would reply by August 22. But this was deemed too long and Iran's case was sent back to the U.N. Security Council, which passed a resolution demanding Tehran halt the sensitive atomic work by August 31 or face possible sanctions.

"The Iranian nation will not yield to pressure but is ready to resolve the nuclear issue through talks," Ahmadinejad said.

Western diplomats have said they are ready to talk but only after Iran meets the key demand of stopping enrichment, a process which can be used to make fuel for nuclear power stations or material for atomic bombs.

Under Iran's system of clerical rule, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last say on state matters not the president. Khamenei has also previously said Iran would not yield to pressure.

POLICY REVIEW

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani also said that Western threats and pressure would not resolve Iran's atomic issue but could push Tehran to review its nuclear policy, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

"If they want to deprive the Iranian nation of its right, we will review our policy," he said after a meeting with visiting assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai. China has repeatedly urged a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute.

Larijani did not say what policy would be reviewed but the president has previously warned Iran might reconsider membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A senior Vienna-based diplomat familiar with operations of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in Iran he did not expect Iran to agree to stop enrichment by the August 31 deadline.

"The next IAEA report (to the Security Council) is unlikely to contain any surprises. The central question for the report will be whether Iran will have stopped enrichment-related work or not by August 31, and I suspect we already know the answer to that," he said.

"No one really believes Iran will give in to this deadline," he added.

The world's fourth largest oil exporter insists its nuclear work is purely civilian, but Western nations say the program is a smokescreen for producing atomic weapons.

Iranian officials often say the country could weather sanctions and argue such measures would hurt the West more than Tehran by lifting already high oil prices to levels that would be unmanageable for industrialized economies.

Analysts and diplomats point out Iran's economy would be highly vulnerable to sanctions on gasoline imports, European financing and industrial components.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna)

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