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Iran Again Refuses to Abandon Nuclear Program

  • Anjana Pasricha

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi says his country was well within its rights to develop its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

In an address to a state-run foreign policy think tank in New Delhi, he repeated Tehran's vow that it will not give up its national interests, despite American and European pressure to do so.

Mr. Kharrazi says Iran is cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Commission and European countries regarding its nuclear program, which he insists aims only at generating electricity.

"While we can enjoy to have our technology for peaceful purposes, certainly we are ready to give any kind of guarantee that Iran would not divert to nuclear weapons," he said.

The speech came as President Bush was in Europe trying to convince America's allies to increase the pressure on Iran.

Washington suspects Iran of secretly developing atomic weapons, and has not ruled out the use of force if the nuclear program is not abandoned.

Mr. Kharrazi accused Washington of trying to destabilize West Asia with such threats, and said Iran is capable of defending itself. His comments were made as he wound up a two-day visit to India to strengthen bilateral ties.

Analysts say the trip also aimed at building support among friendly nations such as India against a possible U.S. strike.

In talks with Indian officials, he praised the Indian government's recent approval of a project to build a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan. He said the project would encourage regional peace and trade.

Decade-old negotiations on the pipeline had been stalled due to strained relations between India and Pakistan. But the peace process between the two countries is gaining momentum, and New Delhi now says it is willing to build the pipeline if Islamabad assures adequate security.