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Iran says won't halt nuclear program
Updated: 2006-02-28 18:41

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Tuesday that Tehran will not give up its nuclear program, but that ongoing talks with Russia to jointly enrich uranium would ease international concerns over its nuclear ambitions.

His comments came after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report on Monday that Iran was pursuing a nuclear fuel enrichment program and obstructing U.N. probes spurred by suspicions it is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

"We would like to enjoy our rights like Japan to have nuclear technology, of course for peaceful purposes," Mottaki told reporters after meeting Japanese Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai.

"The Russian proposal would be a bridge between Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear energy and (gaining) international trust," a Japanese official quoted Mottaki as telling Nikai.

On Sunday, Iran's nuclear chief said Tehran had reached a "basic" agreement with Russia on a joint venture to enrich uranium, but it was unclear if that meant Iran would give up enrichment work at home, the main demand of Western nations.

Mottaki told Nikai that Iran and Russia were still discussing where to carry out the joint enrichment, according to the Japanese official, who attended the meeting.

Moscow had originally proposed that Iran's uranium be enriched in Russia to clear suspicions that Tehran might divert the nuclear fuel for a weapons program.

But Iran has insisted on the right to enrich uranium on its own soil, saying its nuclear program is to meet increasing electricity demand caused by an expanding economy.

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