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Iran says it will enrich uranium, whatever the election result

AFP | June 24, 2005

Iran will eventually resume its controversial uranium enrichment activities regardless of the result of the Islamic republic's presidential election, the foreign ministry insisted Friday.

"Whoever is the next president, a permanent suspension is not on the cards," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

"Decisions on the nuclear question are taken in a collective way and at the highest levels of the regime," he commented, even though he said the president "does have a certain influence".

Seen as being at stake in Friday's presidential run-off is Iran's relatively pragmatic approach in diplomacy over its nuclear programme, which Iran maintains is for peaceful purposes but is seen by many as a cover for weapons development.

A victory by hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad would remove a moderating influence from within the regime and could put the Islamic republic on a collision course with the West, according to diplomats and analysts.

Ahmadinejad's rival for the presidency, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been considered as the man in the driving seat on the Iranian side -- sticking by a freeze of sensitive nuclear activities and talks with Britain, France and Germany.

Although Iran is for the time being committed to a freeze of enrichment -- a process that makes fuel for reactors but can also be diverted to military purposes --, Ahmadinejad has already complained that he sees Iran's negotiators as being too weak.

While the president is only Iran's number-two on paper -- and often lower than that in practice --, Ahmadinejad would bolster the ranks of right-wingers who argue Iran has a "legitimate right" to press on with nuclear work and should do so regardless of the consequences.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday urged Iran to abide by the suspension.

"We call upon the Iranians to adhere to the Paris agreement to its letter and to not engage in any activities associated with the fuel cycle," she said after foreign ministers' meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) world powers in London.

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