Iran says firm on nuclear rights as tour ends

Tehran, Jan 16 (AFP) Iran''s nuclear negotiator saidtoday that Tehran will steadfastly pursue its atomic rights ashe prepared for a face-off with world powers in Istanbul overthe Islamic republic''s nuclear drive.

Saeed Jalili''s hardline reiteration of Iran''s nuclearpolicy came in comments made to the group of foreign envoyswho ended a tour of the country''s nuclear facilities,including its main uranium enrichment plant.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not retreat oneiota from its (nuclear) rights," Jalili told the envoys,according to state television''s website.

"In defending its rights, the Islamic republic of Iranis defending the rights of all members of the NPT(Non-Proliferation Treaty)."

Iran maintains that as a member of the NPT it has theright to enrich uranium, the most contentious part of itsnuclear programme.

Western powers suspect Iran is enriching uranium --material which can be used to power nuclear reactors as wellas to make atomic bombs -- to make weapons, a charge Tehranhas steadfastly denied.

Jalili will face six world powers at a meeting inIstanbul on January 21 and 22 to ascertain whether Iran''snuclear programme indeed has peaceful aims as it claims.

His latest comments echoed a vow made yesterday byIran''s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi to pursue enrichinguranium "very strongly" despite four sets of UN sanctions.

The remarks by the two officials indicate Tehran''ssustained hardline stance over the nuclear file as it goesinto crucial negotiations with representatives of Britain,China, France, Russia, the US and Germany in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the group of foreign envoys completed todaya two-day tour of Iran''s uranium facility at Natanz andheavy-water plant at Arak.

The rare tour has been seen as an attempt by Iran togarner support for its atomic drive ahead of the Istanbultalks.

The diplomats represented some member states of the UNatomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement troika, theArab League, Syria, Venezuela and Oman.

But the trip was snubbed by Tehran''s allies Moscow andBeijing, who did not attend despite invitations, as well as bythe European Union. Iran had not invited the United States,Britain, France or Germany.

"What we have done is an unprecedented move ... toshow 100 per cent transparency" about Iran''s nuclearprogramme, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran''s envoy to the IAEA,said earlier on Sunday, touting the visit.

Salehi dismissed reports sanctions and technicalproblems had hampered Tehran''s nuclear programme. (AFP)

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