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Iran Vows to Finish Construction of Nuclear Plant - 2002-12-24

Iran's President Mohammad Khatami says that despite criticism from the United States, his country is intent on developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The Iranian leader made his comment in Pakistan, where he is holding official talks on bilateral and regional security issues.

President Khatami said Iran believes nuclear weapons will not bring security for any nation in the world and his country is only interested in developing nuclear energy. Speaking through a translator to reporters in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, the Iranian leader vowed to finish construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran.

"The fact is that we are very happy, we are going to build, we are going to have that nuclear power reactor in Iran," he said, "we are determined to develop it for energy and peaceful purposes, I repeat peaceful purposes."

The United States is critical of the Bushehr plant, saying it is part of Iran's secret nuclear weapons program. Russia, which is providing assistance to Tehran in building the nuclear reactor, said there is no evidence Iran is seeking a nuclear arsenal.

But President Khatami said his country will agree to send any nuclear and uranium waste to other countries for reprocessing.

"We have no problem to send back the nuclear waste or the uranium waste back to the other countries and we are not insisting to keep them inside Iran because they would also have environmental problems." he said.

President Khatami also said that instead of focusing concern on recently emerged nuclear powers like Pakistan, the United States and other critics should question Israel's nuclear program.

President Khatami is making his first visit to Pakistan, where he met President Pervez Musharraf and the newly elected prime minister, Zafarullah Jamali. The discussions focused on Pakistan's tensions with neighboring India and the reconstruction process in Afghanistan. President Khatami has urged both India and Pakistan to defuse tensions and improve bilateral relations to ensure economic development in the South Asian region.