July 28, 2006

Cleric says U.N. cannot stop Iran’s nuclear work

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The United Nations cannot push Iran into
abandoning its nuclear work, an influential cleric said on

"Islamic Iran will not be deprived from its obvious nuclear
right, even by a resolution by an useless U.N. Security
Council," Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Friday prayers in
Tehran, broadcast live on state radio.

Key U.N. Security Council members have informally agreed on
a resolution that includes the threat of sanctions if Iran
fails to halt all uranium enrichment-related and plutonium
reprocessing activities, Western diplomats said on Thursday.

The draft text must first be approved by governments of the
five Security Council members with veto power -- the United
States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- as well as
Germany, a European negotiator on the Iran controversy.

Measures such as imposing U.N. sanctions on Iran are not
backed by veto-wielding Russia and China.

Russia is helping Iran build its first atomic power station
at the Gulf port of Bushehr and is interested in further
nuclear cooperation with the oil-rich state.

Khatami said the Security Council's intervening in Iran's
nuclear issue had undermined prospects for talks over its
atomic dispute with the West, which fears Iran's nuclear
activity is a cover for bomb-making. Iran denies the charge.

"It would be wise if the Europeans use all diplomatic
channels to resolve Iran's nuclear issue," said Khatami, who
sits on the Assembly of Experts, the body of 86 clerics that
constitutionally supervises the country's most powerful man,
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Iran is ready to hold talks without any pre-conditions."

Tehran has indicated it might withdraw from the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, if the resolution were adopted by the
Security Council.

The world's fourth biggest oil exporter, Iran has failed to
respond to an offer of commercial and technological incentives
made by major powers in early June, prompting them to refer the
case to the Security Council.

Iran has repeatedly said it would consider incentives but
insisted the crux of the package -- that Iran must give up
uranium enrichment -- was unacceptable. Iran says it will
respond by August 22.

"Involving the Security Council before Iran's reply to the
offer, proved that the whole offer was evil and deceptive,"
Khatami said.