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Sat 12 Sep 2009 08:48 PM

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Iran signals no compromise on nuclear issue

UPDATE 2: FM says Iran cannot compromise with respect to the nation's inalienable right.

Iran said on Saturday it would not back down in its nuclear row with the West, a day after the United States said it would accept Tehran's offer of wide-ranging talks with six world powers."We cannot have any compromise with respect to the Iranian nation's inalienable right," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, in language Iranian officials normally use to refer to its nuclear programme.

Iran on Wednesday handed over a five-page proposal to the major powers, including the United States, in which Tehran said it was willing to discuss global nuclear disarmament as well as other international issues.

Washington has said Iran's package was "not really responsive" to its concerns about the Islamic state's nuclear work, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

But despite Iran's stated refusal to discuss the nuclear dispute, a US State Department spokesman said Washington would "seek an early meeting and... test Iran's willingness to engage."

Washington would "bring up the nuclear issue, and we'll see how Iran responds to that," spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington on Friday.

In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was seeking an urgent meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

Mottaki, at a joint news conference with his visiting Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, said Iran's package of proposals showed Iran's "firm resolve" to address different issues and that it could pave the way for negotiations.

"Our new proposal is the package ... if its conditions are brought about talks can take place," he said.

The major powers, which include permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States as well as Germany, offered Iran trade and diplomatic incentives in 2006 in exchange for a halt to uranium enrichment.

They improved the offer last year but retained the demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, something the Islamic Republic has ruled out as a precondition. Iran says its nuclear work is solely aimed at generating electricity.

Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the United States from the beginning made an "incorrect judgement" about Iran's nuclear programme based on "fraudulent information."

"We regard the production and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction contrary to human, religious and national principles," ILNA news agency quoted him as saying.

US President Barack Obama, who came into office pledging a policy of engagement toward Iran, has suggested it may face harsher international sanctions if it does not accept good-faith talks by the end of September.

But Russia, which has veto power in the UN Security Council, on Thursday all but ruled out oil sanctions on Iran.

Iran, the world's fifth-biggest crude exporter, is seen as vulnerable to gasoline sanctions because it imports up to 40 percent of the fuel due to lack of sufficient refining capacity.

Mottaki said Western powers had experienced four years of "failed policy of imposing sanctions" on Iran, referring to three rounds of punitive UN measures since 2006.

Davutoglu said Turkey, which earlier this year said it was trying to bridge US-Iranian differences, wanted to see the dispute resolved and sanctions removed as it was seeking to boost economic and other ties with its neighbour.

"We want to prepare the ground for ... lifting of sanctions and resolution of all the issues through negotiations," he said, according to Iran's English-language Press TV.

Iran has the world's second largest gas reserves, but has no major net exports, partly because of US and UN sanctions.

Turkey and four European Union countries in July signed a transit deal for the Nabucco gas pipeline, aimed at cutting Europe's dependence on Russia, but no concrete supply deals have yet been signed for the 7.9-billion-euro project.

"We believe that Iran's energy resources must play a more vital role in supplying global energy needs," said Davutoglu. (Reuters)

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