Iran defiant on nuke programme

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defiantly brushed off Western concerns about its nuclear programme in a feisty speech Saturday marking the 25th anniversary of a revolutionary militia.
In remarks aimed at countries “which are suspicious of Iran’s nuclear activities,” Ahmadinejad demanded: “Who has given you the right to prevent Iran from acquiring the nuclear technology?”

Ahmadinejad was speaking to thousands of the voluntary Basij militia on the 25th anniversary of the corps created by Islamic revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to defend the country during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

“You have no rights to ask questions” about Iran’s nuclear activities, he thundered.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday put off taking Iran to the Security Council to give time for new Russian diplomacy to resolve the nuclear crisis, but the United States warned that referral would happen soon if Tehran did not meet its non-proliferation obligations.

The European Union and United States suspect that the Islamic republic is using an atomic energy drive as a cover for nuclear weapons development, charges Iran has denied.

Under the Russian plan, it would enrich uranium on Iran’s behalf but Tehran has already rejected the proposal, refusing to give up what it says is its right to enrichment, a process which can make both nuclear fuel and the explosive core of a weapon.

“Enrichment and the fuel cycle are things that the Islamic Republic of Iran consider to be natural and legitimate rights and within the framework of the NPT,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said last week.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad also pointed an accusing finger at “the ones in Iran who ask us to compromise and make concessions.”

“The Iranian nation has crushed them under their feet and will defend its nuclear rights with wisdom, power and unity,” he said, drawing chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” from the crowd.

Iran’s conservative newspapers gloated Saturday at the “victory” at the IAEA meeting.

“Europe bailed out,” the hardline Kayhan newspaper trumpeted, while the Jomhuri Eslami spoke of the “retreat” by the IAEA’s board of governors.

“The retreat by the Europeans proves more than ever that proceeding with dignity is the most realistic approach to counter the extortionists,” Jomhuri Eslami wrote in an editorial.

Iran, the government daily, said: “The board of governors on the path of rationality: The US and Britain were left alone in the meeting,” referring to calls by the two countries to bring Iran before the Security Council.

The crisis has escalated since Ahmedinejad, a former member of Iran’s ideological army the Revolutionary Guards, took office in August after an election victory opponents allege was an orchestrated fraud by regime elements such as the Basij militia and the Revolutionary Guards.

Praising the Basij for its efforts during and after the war with Iraq, Ahmadinejad watched thousands of Islamic militiamen parading in camouflage fatigues and forming a human chain along a Tehran highway.

Headed by commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, the nine million strong Basij acts as the populist guardians of the regime against domestic or foreign “threats” and has members in all institutions, ministries, universities and large state-run industries.

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