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Iran kicks off revolution fete with nuclear defiance

AFP | February 1, 2007

Iran on Thursday kicked off a series of anniversary festivities for the Islamic revolution by shrugging off UN sanctions over its nuclear programme and urging national unity against US "conspiracies".
Iranian officials have promised a major announcement of progress in its controversial programme during the 10-day celebration, but leaders first focused on emphasising Iran's defiance in the nuclear standoff and its position of strength.

"The language of sanctions belongs to the past," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said as he paid tribute at the shrine of the 1979 revolution's late founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the IRNA news agency reported.

"Iran is a powerful nation with extensive ties and other nations will support us even if they are pressured," he added at the shrine, flanked by Khomeini's grandson Hassan.

Sanctions "will not affect a great nation. We have expanding economic ties and they can, at most, be just an irritation to our people.

"Our nation has always moved in a lawful, peaceful direction and it seeks to exercise its definitive inalienable rights," said Ahmadinejad, referring to Iran's oft-repeated insistence that it will not halt uranium enrichment.

Tehran has defied calls to suspend the enrichment work, rejecting US allegations it wants nuclear weapons and insisting its atomic drive is solely aimed at producing nuclear energy.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution in December imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to freeze enrichment although the measures are not seen as far-reaching enough to hurt Iran's wider economy.

Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a still powerful cleric who heads Iran's main political arbitration body, warned the country to beware of foreign plots to divide Iranians.

"We have the experience that when our revolution triumphed it was because we we were all united," Rafsanjani told thousands of the faithful packed into Khomeini's massive shrine on the outskirts of Tehran.

"With this experience, we should not play into the hands of foreign enemies and US conspiracies. Differences between ethnicities and religious groups is just what the enemy wants ...

"They want to say that we are disunited. But they will learn their lesson on February 11 when the people come to the streets and defend our nuclear right and show there are no differences among us," he said.

Iranians are to hold mass rallies across the country on that day in support of the revolution, and Ahmadinejad is expected to speak at Tehran's Freedom Square as a 100-strong orchestra plays a "nuclear symphony".

It remains unclear however exactly what announcement will be made on Iran's nuclear programme amid conflicting comments by officials.

The Islamic republic has said it wants to install 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges at a key nuclear plant but it remains a mystery how far it has progressed with this work or if it has even started.

The revolutionary celebrations started at 9:33 (0603 GMT) on Thursday, marking the exact time when an Air France jet touched down at Tehran airport bringing Khomeini back from exile in France.

School and church bells tolled while trains and ships sounded their horns continuously to mark the moment. Khomenei's successor as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also visited the shrine in the early morning.

Flowers were then thrown on the spot at the adjacent Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, where Khomeini rushed after arriving back from France to tell throngs of supporters of his vision of an Islamic state.

Ahmadinejad said the Islamic republic had now become a "model" for the rest of the world.

"Big powers are very worried about our nation's scientific progress. They want to convince people that governments built on religion... cannot respond to modern problems."

 

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