Iran won't negotiate over atomic rights-president

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TEHRAN, Oct 23 (Reuters) Iran will not negotiate with anyone about its right to nuclear technology, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today, hours before talks aimed at defusing an atomic row with the West were to start in Rome.

Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to build an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran denies, insisting it only wants to master atomic technology so it can make electricity and save its huge oil and gas reserves for export.

''We are in favour of talks but we will not negotiate with anyone about our right to nuclear technology,'' Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iranian state television during his trip to Armenia, which ended on Tuesday.

''The party which should set conditions is Iran not the other party,'' he was quoted as saying.

In comments carried by the Fars News Agency, the president also repeated Iran's position that it would not suspend uranium enrichment, the key demand of the UN Security Council.

''They said that if Iran suspends its activities, they will hold talks with us. But they don't know that the Iranian nation is in favour of negotiations but will not negotiate over its rights at all ... Iran will not retreat one iota,'' he said.

The United Nations has demanded Iran suspend enrichment work because it can be used both for making fuel for power plants or, if Iran wanted, material for warheads. Two rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran for rejecting the demand.

Iran's new nuclear negotiator and ally of Ahmadinejad, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Rome today to meet European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who is representing world powers in meetings aimed at resolving the standoff.

Analysts have said Jalili's appointment might signal a hardening of Tehran's position over its nuclear plans. Iranian officials have insisted the change in negotiator does not mean a change of policy.

REUTERS SZ AS1640

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