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Ahmadinejad: Iran Determined to Continue Nuclear Program


Iran's president says his nation has every right to continue nuclear enrichment. Aya Batrawy reports for VOA from our Middle East bureau in Cairo that in a few days the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to issue a report regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his defiant stance against Western powers, saying it is Iran's national right to have a nuclear-energy program.

Speaking to a crowd in southern Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran considers nuclear energy its definite right and does not accept oppressive regulations.

Nuclear energy is our obvious right, he told the chanting crowd.

According to Iran expert Paul Ingram, of the London-based British-American Security Information Council, Mr. Ahmadinejad's words are a political tool to whip up domestic support.

"While it might serve Ahmadinejad's domestic purposes to make such statements and to frame the debate in a rights-based debate, defending Iran's national pride, their interests lie in a stable region where Iran can play a full part within the regional international community and statements like this do not assist that objective," he said.

Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke a few days before an expected report on Iran's nuclear program by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Although a U.S. intelligence report released in December found that Iran probably halted its nuclear weapons program nearly five years ago, the United States and the European Union continue to suspect that Iran is trying to produce atomic weapons, a claim Iran denies.

The United States is also concerned that Iran launched a rocket earlier this month, because it says the technology could eventually be used to launch long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.

The United States says although Iran has a right to civilian nuclear power, Washington rejects a home-based nuclear-enrichment program for Iran. The United States would accept nuclear power plants in Iran that receive fuel from abroad, if the used fuel is sent back overseas for reprocessing.

Tehran now faces a U.S.-led push for a third set of U.N. sanctions that would ban trade with Iran in "dual use" technology, having both military and civilian applications. The sanctions would also authorize inspections of air and sea cargo bound for Iran.

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