TEHRAN // Iran will continue its disputed nuclear work and will never negotiate on its "obvious" rights, the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today, in comments that are likely to disappoint Western powers. US President Barack Obama has given the Islamic Republic until later in September to take up a six powers' offer of talks on trade benefits if it shelves nuclear enrichment, or face harsher sanctions.
"From our view point our nuclear issue is finished," Mr Ahmadinejad told a news conference. "We will continue our work in the framework of global regulations and in close co-operation with the (UN) International Atomic Energy Agency. We will never negotiate on the Iranian nation's obvious rights," he added. He said Iran, which plans to present its own "package" of proposals to world powers, was ready to negotiate and co-operate on making "peaceful use of clean nuclear energy" available for all countries and in preventing the spread of nuclear arms.
The West suspects Iran of trying to build nuclear bombs while Iran says its programme is for peaceful power generation. It has repeatedly rejected demands to halt its nuclear work. Iran has often said nuclear arms have no place in its defence doctrine and called on the United States and other countries with such weapons to dismantle them. Israel, Iran's arch-foe, is believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal. The Jewish state says an Iranian bomb would be a threat to its existence that it would not tolerate.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran since 2006, targeting Iranian companies and individuals linked to the nuclear programme. *Reuters