Nobel laureate urges Iran to halt atom work

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TEHRAN, Nov 19 (Reuters) Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi called on the Islamic Republic today to suspend sensitive nuclear activities to avert a ''serious'' threat of a US military attack.

''The drum beat of war can be heard very loudly,'' Ebadi told a conference of her rights group called ''No to war, Yes to peace and human rights'', urging all Iranians to support a national campaign aimed at preventing possible US military action.

Speculation has grown that the United States may launch air strikes against Iran over its refusal to suspend sensitive nuclear activities, which the West fears is a cover to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear work is peaceful.

''Iran should respect UN Security Council resolutions and it means suspending uranium enrichment and resolving the dispute (on the nuclear issue) through talks,'' Ebadi told reporters after the conference.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defied international pressure on Iran to suspend enrichment and branded Iranian critics of his nuclear policy ''traitors''.

Ebadi, a human rights lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, warned of an escalating crisis with the international community, saying ''the threat of conflict is serious''.

Her call on the Iranian leadership to review its hardline nuclear policy, echoed similar statements of the growing number of moderate leaders who believe Iran should return to suspending enrichment, the policy under former President Mohammad Khatami.

Domestic criticism of the handling of Iran's nuclear policy is sensitive because it is considered a matter of national security.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last say on all state matters, including the nuclear issue.

Iranian officials have dismissed the threat of US military action and Ahmadinejad has called it a US ''dream''. Iran says it is fully prepared to defend itself, warning Washington of a ''quagmire deeper than Iraq''.

''AVOID THE WAR'' Ebadi called on Iranians to join a ''national peace campaign'' to stop the war.

''This campaign will pressure the (Iranian) establishment to prevent a war by accepting international commitments ... and respecting UN resolutions,'' she said.

''We should show the world that Iranians are peace-seekers and want to live in peace not war.'' Ahmadinejad has called two sets of UN sanction resolutions against Iran ''a piece of torn paper''.

Ebadi said the government should not ''sacrifice'' people's other rights for Iran's right to nuclear technology.

''Nuclear technology is Iran's right. But we have other rights that should be preserved, including living in peace.'' Russia told Iran today to make sure it implemented the demands of the UN nuclear watchdog to ease international concerns about its atomic programme.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said a report last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had shown Iran had made progress in explaining its nuclear activities to the world.

''But this is not a 'conclusive positive diagnosis','' Kamynin said in a statement.

REUTERS RSA KN2114

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