Iran, on deadline day, vows no nuclear retreat

Sat Aug 2, 2008 4:27pm EDT
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By Fredrik Dahl and Hossein Jaseb

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it would not back down "one iota" in its nuclear row with major powers, voicing defiance on the day of an informal deadline set by the West over Tehran's disputed atomic ambitions.

Western officials gave Tehran two weeks from July 19 to respond to their offer to hold off from imposing more U.N. sanctions on Iran if it froze any expansion of its nuclear work.

That would suggest a deadline of Saturday but Iran, which has repeatedly ruled out curbing its nuclear activities, dismissed the idea of having two weeks to reply.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear warheads under cover of a civilian power program. Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, denies the charge.

"In whichever negotiation we take part ... it is unequivocally with the view to the realization of Iran's nuclear right and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

He made the remark in a statement posted on the presidential website after talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad visited Tehran a few weeks after he said in Paris he would respond to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's request and use his good relations with the Islamic Republic to help resolve the nuclear stand-off.

The statement quoted the Syrian leader as saying that based on international agreements, all countries had the right to enrich uranium and have nuclear power stations.   Continued...

<p>Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the presidential office to attend a welcoming ceremony for his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Tehran, August 2, 2008. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>