by Staff Writers
Doha (AFP) Aug 21, 2010
Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised a global response if his country is attacked, in an interview with Qatari daily Al-Sharq published on Saturday.
"Our options will have no limits... They will touch the entire planet," he said in reply to a question about Tehran's reaction in the event of such an attack.
Iran's arch-foes the United States and Israel have never ruled out military strikes against Tehran to halt its nuclear programme which they and other Western powers suspect is aimed at making weapons.
Tehran denies the charge, saying its atomic programme has purely peaceful goals.
"I believe that some think about attacking Iran, especially those within the Zionist entity (Israel). But they know that Iran is an indestructible bulwark and I do not think their American masters will let them do it," Ahmadinejad said.
"They also know that the Iranian response will be hard and painful," he added.
The UN Security Council in June slapped its fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment work.
earlier related report
Iran is "ready to resume in late August or in early September" talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany over an exchange of enriched uranium, Ahmadinejad told the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Ahmadinejad hinted Iran could stop its controversial programme of uranium enrichment if a deal were struck to ensure the supply of nuclear fuel to Tehran.
"We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent if fuel supply is ensured," he said in the exclusive interview in Tehran, published in Japanese.
"We have the right to enrich uranium. Iran has never provoked a war nor craved for nuclear bombs," he added.
Ahmadinejad's comments follow those he made earlier this month urging the United States to join talks on a fuel swap deal.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that any talks with arch-foe the United States would take place only if Washington drops "sanctions and threats" against Tehran.
Asked about the relations with the United States, Ahmadinejad told the Yomiuri Shimbun: "Iranian people support dialogue. Dialogue should be done with respect and fairness.
"Unfortunately Western countries always hold out threats, trying to keep advantage in negotiations. This is not dialogue. The purpose of dialogue is understanding, not threatening."
Iran says it needs 20 percent enriched uranium to power a research reactor in Tehran.
Western and European nations led by Washington strongly oppose Tehran's move to enrich uranium to this level, as they suspect the enrichment programme masks a weapons drive.
Under a deal proposed in May known as the Tehran Declaration, Iran would ship some low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for 20 percent high-enriched uranium to be supplied at a later date for a Tehran research reactor.
The Tehran Declaration was Iran's counter-proposal to an earlier plan drafted by the IAEA for a fuel swap deal.
After that plan hit deadlock, Ahmadinejad ordered atomic chiefs to produce 20 percent enriched uranium inside the country, in defiance of world powers which want Tehran to stop the sensitive process.
The UN Security Council groups Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States
earlier related report
Ali Akbar Salehi also said that Iran signed an agreement with Russia to purchase radio isotopes.
"We are not intending to convert all our uranium to 20 percent enriched uranium. We will go as far as our needs are met," he told reporters in the southern port of Bushehr after Iran began loading fuel into its first nuclear power plant.
The long-delayed Bushehr plant is built by Russia, which is also supplying it with fuel for 10 years.
"We have no intention to proceed forever with enriching 20 percent uranium," Salehi said, while noting that Iran has a "right" to the process as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Enrichment is at the centre of fears about Iran's nuclear programme which the West suspects is masking a weapons drive despite Tehran's vehement denial.
Iran has been slapped with four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for its refusal to halt the enrichment work.
In February, Iran stepped up its uranium enrichment level to 20 percent -- still much lower than the around 90 percent bomb grade but a significant development from its under-five-percent purification.
The expanded enrichment work was met with international concern but Iran said it needed to make fuel for an aging research reactor in Tehran which makes medical isotopes.
Salehi, who heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, also reiterated that Iran is finding locations for 10 new enrichment sites.
"We might start building one of the sites next year if the president says. But this is not definitive yet. All depends on the opinion of the president and the government and we move on in this regard patiently and slowly," he said.
He also told Mehr news agency that Iran signed an agreement with Russia on Saturday to purchase radio isotopes from Moscow "as much as we need", and that such isotopes will also be produced at the Tehran reactor.
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