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Iran to 'resist to end' on nuclear: Ahmadinejad

AFP | November 15, 2006

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Wednesday that Iran would "resist to the end" on its nuclear programme, after sparking fresh Western concern by revealing plans to massively ramp up sensitive atomic work.
"The Iranian people will resist to the end to defend their nuclear right," Ahmadinejad told thousands of supporters in a speech in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran's Kurdestan province, broadcast live on state television.

"Thanks to God, time is on Iran's side and with every passing day they (the great powers) are having to take a step backwards and recognise Iran's right while the Iranian people take a step forward to the summit of technology."

Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said Iran was ultimately aiming to install 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel on an industrial scale, which the United States said would be enough to make a nuclear weapon.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it has every right to the full nuclear fuel cycle, rejecting US accusations that its civilian energy drive masks a programme to make a nuclear bomb.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described Ahmadinejad's remarks -- made at a news conference Tuesday -- as a "cold jolt" adding that "what that leads to is an Iranian nuclear weapon".

The installation of 60,000 centrifuges would take several years but would enable the Islamic republic to enrich uranium on an industrial scale to make its own nuclear fuel.

Iran had previously said it is looking to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007. It currently has two cascades of 164 centrifuges apiece at its Natanz plant to enrich uranium on a research scale.

The United States is leading a drive to impose UN sanctions against Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment, but has hit stalemate amid opposition from China and Russia to a European-proposed draft resolution.

Uranium enrichment can be used both to produce nuclear fuel and make the warhead of an atomic bomb. Iran can currently enrich uranium to levels of 5 percent, enough for fuel, but a bomb requires levels of some 90 percent.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, Iran's arch-enemy, said in Los Angeles the world had "reached the pivotal moment of truth" on Iran's nuclear programme and warned "we cannot afford to wait".

The latest report by the UN nuclear watchdog obtained by AFP in Vienna on Tuesday mentioned the presence of traces of plutonium, a possible weapons material, at an Iranian waste storage site.

The body said it was now examining Iran's response to the findings.

However Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), played down the report, which he said contained nothing new.

"The report proves that the case will go on normally at the IAEA and this document shows that there is no justification for Security Council intervention or interference from any other organisation," he told state radio.

The report also urged full Iranian cooperation with the IAEA as "a prerequisite for the agency to be able to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme".

The Kurdestan speech by Ahmadinejad, who ditched his trademark beige jacket for a traditional Kurdish coat for the occasion, was his first in his latest regional tour aimed at bringing the government's message to the people.

He also issued a warning to the Democrats, the political rivals of US President George W. Bush who seized control of Congress in elections earlier this month, to force a drastic change in US policy on the Middle East.

"The (current) failure is that of American policy, a policy of aggression, intervention and the utilisation of force. I tell those who recently came to power that if you do the same, the same destiny awaits you."

In a message to Bush and his allies, Ahmadinejad added: "I tell those who are still partially in power to use the time you have left to serve the American people. What are you doing in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the region?

"Renounce this behaviour as otherwise the destiny of all oppressors in the world awaits you too."

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