TEHRAN, Iran – Iran (search) vowed Wednesday not to surrender its nuclear power generating program, as U.N. experts met with Iranian officials in an effort to arrange unrestricted inspections of its nuclear facilities.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not give up nuclear technology as a basis for legitimate power, " state television quoted President Mohammad Khatami (search) as telling Iran's most senior officials.
Khatami said Iran had no desire for nuclear weapons, as the United States maintains, "because we cannot use such weapons based on our Islamic and moral teachings."
His comments at a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search) and the country's top military and political officials came as a three-member team from the International Atomic Energy Agency met with government officials to try to arrange unfettered inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
Khatami hinted Iran may sign a protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing such access "if the world recognizes" his country's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
Iran has always said it would agree to unfettered inspections if it is granted access to advanced nuclear technology as provided for under the non-proliferation treaty. Tehran says Washington is keeping Iran from getting that technology.
The United States has accused Iran of running a clandestine nuclear weapons program and wants the U.N. nuclear agency to declare Tehran in violation of the non-proliferation treaty.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported Iran "appears to be in the late stages of developing the capacity to build a nuclear bomb."
It said a three-month investigation found Iran had sought to conceal its weapons efforts from international inspectors.
The newspaper -- citing sources ranging from previously secret reports, international officials, independent experts and Iranian exiles -- reported that Iran made use of technology and scientists from Russia, North Korea, China and Pakistan to bring it closer to building a bomb than Iraq ever was.