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'Iran must remain firm on nuclear rights'

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that Tehran must remain firm on its rights to nuclear power, as the EU charged the Islamic republic has avoided questions on its atomic activities.

world Updated: Sep 11, 2009 22:34 IST

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that Tehran must remain firm on its rights to nuclear power, as the EU charged the Islamic republic has avoided questions on its atomic activities.

"We must stand firm for our rights. If we give up our rights, whether nuclear or other rights, this will lead to decline (of the society)," said Khamenei, who has the final say in all national issues, during a Friday prayer address in Tehran.

"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."

Khamenei's remarks come two days after Tehran handed over a new package of proposals to six world powers to help resolve the stalemate over its atomic drive.

The package was delivered to representatives of the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany -- the nations tasked with persuading Iran to halt its uranium enrichment drive which they suspect is for making atomic weapons.

Tehran denies the charges and says its nuclear programme has peaceful goals.

A spokeswoman for the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Friday Iran's latest proposals do not answer key questions about its own nuclear programme.

"This does not provide an answer to the nuclear questions," Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, said in Brussels.

"The document is more focused on global questions than on nuclear ones," she added.

Washington too has expressed disappointment over the package.

"It is not really responsive to our greatest concern, which is obviously Iran's nuclear programme," Philip Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added later: "There's nothing really new in the package itself."

A US non-profit investigative journalism group, Pro Publica, said it 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.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ahmadinejad's senior adviser Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said the package calls for setting up an international system to scrap and prevent nuclear weapons worldwide.

But Samareh Hashemi did not reply directly when asked if it contained a promise that Iran would meet international demands to halt uranium enrichment.

He suggested Iran aims to establish a global system in which nobody will be allowed to make nuclear weapons -- rather than to build an atomic weapon itself.

"Iran not only does not want to make nuclear weapons, but is actually intensely against nuclear weapons," Samareh Hashemi told the newspaper. "In all truth, Iran is trying to establish a new regime to prevent nuclear weapons worldwide."

Iran has long called for Israel to scrap its widely suspected stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Crowley said the United States would talk again Friday with its partners in the so-called P5-plus-1.

"We'll be looking to see how...ready Iran is to actually engage. And we will be testing that willingness to engage in the next few weeks," he said.

The world powers -- which have been meeting on Iran for the last three years -- have given Tehran a late September deadline to begin negotiations with them about its nuclear programme or face more sanctions. Tehran is already under three sets of UN sanctions.