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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran president says ready for talks on nuclear problem

RIA Novosti

23/04/2008 15:33 TEHRAN, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Iran is prepared to try and reach an agreement with any country over its nuclear program, but will not stop its development of peaceful atomic energy, the Islamic Republic's president said on Wednesday.

"The Iranian nation has always believed in fair negotiations to resolve the [nuclear] issue, based on respect for the rights of other nations. It makes no difference with whom we conduct such negotiations," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

He reiterated that despite outside pressure, Iran would pursue its nuclear program to meet the country's energy needs: "Peaceful nuclear energy belongs to all nations."

A top official from the international nuclear watchdog has just completed the second round of negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.

Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who was on a two-day visit to the region, met with the Islamic Republic's top security and nuclear officials behind closed doors at Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO).

The IAEA said Wednesday Iran had agreed to cooperate with its investigation into allegations that Tehran was trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the nuclear watchdog hopes Iran will provide them with a response to the claims next month.

The IAEA said in a report released in late February that Iran had become more transparent on its nuclear program, but had failed to fully answer allegations relating to nuclear weapons development.

The international community has demanded that Tehran halt uranium enrichment, used both in electricity generation and nuclear weapons production. Iran insists on its right to civilian nuclear energy, and has defied three sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear program.

In a sign of defiance Iran said earlier this month it had started to install another 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at its underground facility in Natanz in addition to its 3,000. The country also announced tests of advanced enrichment centrifuges, along with plans to build a second uranium processing plant by next March.

The country's nuclear ambitions have fueled tensions with Washington, with U.S. President George Bush refusing late last year to rule out military action against Tehran.

Russia and China, which both have strong business interests in Iran, blocked stronger measures against the country using their vetoes at the UN Security Council.

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