‘Iran won’t talk over nuke rights’

TEHRAN (Reuters) — Iran will not hold talks over its right to nuclear technology despite growing Western pressure, an influential cleric said on Friday.

“Iran will certainly not discuss its obvious right to nuclear technology,” Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Friday Prayers in Tehran.

He was speaking a day after the Group of Eight industrialised nations told Iran to give a “clear and substantive response” next week to a proposal combining incentives for Iran to halt work that could produce nuclear weapons or face UN Security Council sanctions. Khatami, who is a member of the Assembly of Experts — a clerical body that supervises Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — reiterated that any talks to resolve Iran’s nuclear issue should be on Iranian terms.

“If the Europeans really want to resolve this issue through talks, first they should recognise our nuclear rights. Then international controls, supervision and guarantees can be discussed,” he said in a sermon broadcast live on state radio. Iranian officials will meet with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana next week to discuss the offer. Iran has repeatedly said that no response to the offer can come before “questions and ambiguities” in the proposal are cleared up. Iran has previously said it would respond by Aug. 22.

As part of the proposal backed by six world powers, Washington has offered to join the European Union’s direct talks with Iran if Tehran first agreed to suspend uranium enrichment.

But Khatami reiterated that Iran had no intention to hold talks with Washington over the Islamic republic’s nuclear activities, which the West suspects is a cover to develop a nuclear bomb.

Iran, the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter, insists it wants nuclear technology to meet booming power demand in civilian plants.

“We have nothing to do with America regarding our nuclear issue. Our officials will never hold talks with Americans,” he said to chants of “Death to America” said Khatami.

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