Iran says won't give up N-enrichment: Ahmadinejad
The remarks come days before a UN deadline demanding Tehran halt enrichment.Updated: Mar 15, 2007, 18:15 IST
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck a defiant, yet vague tone on Sunday, telling Iranians during the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that their country would not give up uranium enrichment but was prepared to talk with the international community.
But the hardline leader's remarks, which come days before a UN Security Council deadline demanding Tehran halt enrichment or face further sanctions, fell short of an expected announcement that Iran had started installing 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Natanz plant.
"The Iranian nation on Feb. 11, 2007 passed the arduous passes and stabilised its definite (nuclear) right," Ahmadinejad said. He did not elaborate or explain what his comments meant.
<b1>Ahmadinejad, however, also said Iran was ready for "dialogue," and his country's program would remain within the limits of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that bans production of nuclear weapons.
"We are prepared for dialogue but won't suspend our activities. ... The government will defend the rights of the Iranian nation within the framework of the law," he said.
Ahmadinejad said Iran's nuclear technology advances will gradually be made public over the course of the next two months until April 9. He did not explain what would happen on that date, but it marks the one year anniversary of Iran's announcement that it had enriched uranium for the first time.
"Until April 9, 2007, you will witness the great advances of the Iranian nation ... especially in the field of nuclear technology," he said.
The Iranian leader suggested last week that Tehran would announce that it had begun installing a new assembly of 3,000 centrifuges in an underground portion of its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz that the US and some of its allies fear could be used to build nuclear weapons.
Had Ahmadinejad made such a provocative announcement, it would have heightened tensions between Iran and the West. It is widely believed Ahmadinejad listened to moderate voices within the ruling Islamic establishment telling him not to do so.
"After the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran last December, Ahmadinejad has come under pressure at home and abroad to moderate his tone. He refused to make that announcement not to further provoke the West at this crucial time," political analyst Iraj Jamshidi said.
Diplomats in Vienna, headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said last week that Iran has set up more two new cascades of 164 centrifuges at its underground Natanz complex in addition to the two cascades of 164 centrifuges above the ground.
The new centrifuges are part of 3,000 centrifuges Iran is planning to complete in Natanz.
Ahmadinejad's comments Sunday were part of a speech that was broadcast live during nationwide rallies marking the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
On February 11, 1979, Iran's imperial armed forces withdrew support for the US-backed monarchy and declared its allegiance to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after a popular peaceful uprising throughout Iran. Khomeini's followers seized control of the capital and two months later declared Iran an Islamic republic.
Sunday's rallies also were a referendum on the country's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad's government, whose nuclear diplomacy has been criticized domestically by both reformers and conservatives in recent weeks, wanted to show that the nation stands united behind him despite mounting pressures from the West.
"On the basis of the law, we have the right to possess the full (nuclear) fuel cycle," Ahmadinejad said, addressing hundreds of the thousands of Iranians who gathered in a Tehran square.
The US and its allies "should know that they have been defeated and that the Iranian nation continues to resist," he said. "Anybody showing ... one iota of leniency, compromise ... will be the most hated person before the Iranian nation."
The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. The Security Council, which first imposed limited sanctions against Iran in December over its refusal to halt enrichment, has threatened to impose further sanctions on Iran later this month if it continues to refuse to roll back its program.
Iran insists its program is peaceful and to generate electricity. Tehran ultimately plans to expand its program to 54,000 centrifuges, a large operation enriching more uranium within a shorter period of time.
Iran now has two cascades of 164 centrifuges each that have been operating sporadically at the above-ground portion of the central Natanz facility producing small quantities of non-weapons grade enriched uranium, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors say.
<b3>The installation of 3,000 centrifuges would be a major jump in Iran's uranium enrichment program, though it could take months to set up them up and get them working.
Over the past two months, several officials have said the installation process was starting, but officials from Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation quickly rejected the comments.
Centrifuges spin uranium gas at supersonic speeds to purify it. Uranium enriched to around 5 per cent is used for fuel for a nuclear reactor, but if it is enriched to 95 percent, it can be used to build a warhead.
The IAEA has said it has found no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, but it has criticized the country for concealing certain nuclear activities and failing to answer questions about the program.