Iran: Sanctions won''t stop nuclear drive

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Tehran, Jan 18 (AP) Iranian President MahmoudAhmadinejad said today that Tehran is making steady progressin its nuclear programme, and warned that not even 100,000 UNSecurity Council resolutions will derail his country''s nuclearambitions.

Ahmadinejad spoke days ahead of talks with worldpowers in Istanbul, Turkey. Tehran has hardened its positionahead of the meeting with the US, Britain, France, Germany,Russia and China, and Iranian officials have said they willnot discuss their country''s right to enrich uranium at theJan 21-22 talks.

The semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Ahmadinejadas saying "Iran is making progress in nuclear energy" whilethe US and its allies "only issue resolutions".

"Let them issue 100,000 resolutions," he said. "It''snot important. Let them say what they want to".

Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of Iran''s disputewith the West, a technology that can be used to producenuclear fuel or materials for an atomic warhead. The UNSecurity Council slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Iranlast summer over its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of using itscivil nuclear programme as a cover to develop a nuclearweapons capability.

Tehran denies the accusation, saying its nuclear workis merely geared toward producing nuclear energy and isotopesto treat medical patients.

Last week, Iran took several international envoys --but crucially none from the world powers -- to a tour of itsnuclear facilities, a gesture Iran hopes will build supportbefore the Istanbul negotiations on its disputed atomicactivities.

Iran sought to sell the tour as a gesture oftransparency. In a blow to the effort, however, major powersRussia, China and the European Union refused the Iranianinvitation. The EU said it should be up to inspectors from theUN''s International Atomic Energy Agency to verify whetherIran''s programme is entirely peaceful.

Iran''s offer pointedly did not include the UnitedStates, Tehran''s archrival, nor three other Western nationsthat have been critical of the Iranian programme -- Britain,France and Germany -- and many saw the tour as an attempt todivide the nations conducting the nuclear talks. (AP)

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