Ayatollah: Iran to Continue Pursuing Nuclear Technology

Published August 21, 2006

| Associated Press

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday that Tehran will continue to pursue nuclear technology, despite a U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment by the end of the month or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has made its own decision and in the nuclear case, God willing, with patience and power, will continue its path," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television.

He accused the United States of putting pressure on Iran despite Tehran's assertions that its nuclear program was peaceful. "Arrogant powers and the U.S. are putting their utmost pressure on Iran while knowing Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons," he said.

Khamenei's declaration came on the eve of Iran's self-imposed Aug. 22 deadline to respond to a Western incentives package for it to roll back its nuclear program.

He accused the United States of pressuring Iran despite Tehran's assertions that it was not seeking to develop nuclear weapons, as Washington and several of its allies have contended.

"Arrogant powers and the U.S. are putting their utmost pressure on Iran while knowing Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons," he said.

Iran on Sunday said it will offer a "multifaceted response" to the incentives proposal. It insisted that it won't suspend uranium enrichment altogether.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month requiring the halt to enrichment under threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Also on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for a "solid answer" from Iran on the package.

"I still hope that it will be positive, although some signals have been very confused," said Merkel, whose country drew up the package with the five permanent Security Council members.

The proposal includes promises that the United States and Europe will provide civilian nuclear technology and that Washington will join direct talks with Iran.

Tehran says uranium enrichment does not violate any of its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and that its nuclear program aims to produce electricity.

Khamenei accused the West of wanting to obstruct scientific progress in the Islamic world and called for Islamic countries to stand together in the face of such pressure.

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