July 22, 2005

Iran cleric says nuclear work will go ahead

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Giving up Iran's nuclear fuel program
would be a "shameful stain" on the country, a senior cleric
said on Friday.

Washington accuses Tehran of pursuing atomic weapons. Iran
says it wants nuclear technology to generate electricity and
not to make bombs.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshippers
at Friday prayers at Tehran University: "We will never abandon
our obvious right, otherwise it will be a stain of shame on our

France, Britain and Germany, who share the U.S. view Iran
may be planning to build nuclear weapons, have been in talks to
convince the Islamic state to drop making nuclear fuel in
return for economic incentives.

Rafsanjani, the head of the Expediency Council, which
arbitrates on legislative disputes between parliament and a
hardline watchdog body, also hinted at Iran's readiness to work
out a diplomatic solution to settle the nuclear dispute with
the European Union.

"Prudently and by adopting proper measures, we should not
let our legitimate right to be ignored," he added in the sermon
broadcast live on state radio.

Iran has agreed to freeze some nuclear work while it
negotiates a long-term arrangement with the EU, talks on which
are due to resume in August.

Iranian officials have warned that Tehran would resume its
enrichment program, which can produce bomb-grade fuel, if the
talks failed.

Rafsanjani's comments echoed those of hardline
President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who scored a crushing
victory against the cleric in Iran's presidential election
run-off in June.

"Nuclear states have no right to deprive developing nations
from pursuing nuclear energy," said Ahmadinejad on Thursday in
his first public appearance since his landslide win.

Iran has asserted that Ahmadinejad's win will not lead to
changes in nuclear policy, as the final word on that and other
matters of state lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali