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Iran cleric says UN nuclear demand is unacceptable

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Tehran, Apr 7: A UN Security Council demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment is unacceptable, a senior cleric said today, vowing Tehran would defy Western powers who suspect it of preparing to build a nuclear bomb.

The council has demanded Iran suspend work on enriched uranium and on March 29 asked the UN's Vienna-based nuclear agency to report on Tehran's compliance in 30 days.

Ahmad Khatami, a key Friday prayer preacher at Tehran University and a member of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that supervises Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said there was no question of complying.

''Whether it is one month or one year, whatever timeframes you want to give us, the Iranian nation has explicitly said ... that it would not give up its rights on the nuclear issue,'' he said in remarks broadcast live on state radio.

''We will stand up for our rights until the last drop of our blood.'' He accused the Security Council of implementing ''the rule of jungle'' in its dealings with Iran and vowed a harsh response if the Islamic Republic were attacked.

''If they (the West) are in the least bit aggressive towards the Islamic system, they will get a very hard slap in the face,'' Khatami said to a chorus of ''nuclear energy is our absolute right'' from worshippers.

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton yesterday said the Security Council could give Iran only two chances to curb its nuclear programmes before imposing sanctions.

US officials have said military action is an option, though Britain and France have disavowed it.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), yesterday urged Iran to clarify ''hazy'' areas of its atomic programme, which the IAEA has been unable to verify is exclusively peaceful in three years of checks.

Five inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog arrived in Iran on Friday to visit nuclear sites, Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

In February, Iran scrapped snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities after its nuclear file was referred to the Security Council. But it says it is continuing to cooperate with the IAEA and its inspectors.

REUTERS

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