Iran president calls atomic policy critics "traitors"

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TEHRAN, Nov 12 (Reuters) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today denounced as ''traitors'' Iranian politicians who want the country to suspend its nuclear work, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iranian reformists and some senior clerics have challenged Ahmadinejad's hardline nuclear policy, blaming him for the imposition of tougher United Nations and US sanctions in response to Tehran's atomic work.

Reformists believe Iran should return to a suspension of uranium enrichment, the policy under Khatami, saying Ahmadinejad's nuclear policy was piling Western pressure on Tehran.

But Ahmadinejad repeated that Iran had no intention of giving up its nuclear programme, which the West fears is a front to build bombs. Tehran says its atomic programme is a peaceful project to generate electricity.

''These people (who call for a change of nuclear policy) are traitors and based on our pact with the nation we will not back down,'' Ahmadinejad said in a speech at Tehran's Elm Va Sanat technical university.

''If they do not give up their pressures on (the government) over the atomic issues, we would expose them to the Iranian nation.'' Iran's leading reformist parties and leaders, including reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, have warned of an escalating crisis with the international community, calling for a review of nuclear policy.

Speculation is growing that President George W Bush could launch military action before he leaves office in January 2009, even though Washington says it is committed to resolving the crisis over Iran's disputed atomic ambitions diplomatically.

''THREATS ARE SERIOUS'' Khatami on Thursday suggested Tehran had become increasingly isolated, warning of the consequences of US military action against the country. But Ahmadinejad has called the military threat a US ''dream''.

''Iran faces big threats and unfortunately this serious concern does exist ... Ruling the country by those who impose their ideas is very dangerous,'' Khatami told a gathering of reformist leaders.

Domestic criticism of the handling of Iran's nuclear policy is unusual and sensitive because it is seen as a matter of national security.

The Etemad-e Melli daily said yesterday Ahmadinejad had called critics of his nuclear policy: ''Those with less intelligence than goats''.

''They (reformists) pressure a judge to acquit a suspect for (nuclear) spying,'' Ahmadinejad said at the university, in a clear reference to former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian.

Mousavian, a moderate conservative with ties to the political camp of influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was detained for ''security reasons'' in May but was freed later on bail.

Rafsanjani, head of a powerful body with the authority to appoint or dismiss Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also voiced concerns about a military attack.

''The danger is serious and everyone should try to preserve the country's interests,'' Rafsanjani told a conference called ''Unity, Policies and Methods''. Mousavian also attended the conference.

REUTERS PD BD1805

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