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Iran Says Its Nuclear Program Is Irreversible

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has no reverse gear in its nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday, while an Iranian deputy foreign minister vowed that Tehran was prepared for any eventuality, "even for war."

"Iran has obtained the technology to produce nuclear fuel and Iran's move is like a train ... which has no brake and no reverse gear," Ahmadinejad said, the ISNA news agency reported.

Iran ignored last week's UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make fuel for power plants or material for warheads. Tehran says it wants a deal but rules out the West's key demand that it suspend the atomic work.

The United States says it wants a diplomatic solution to the dispute but has not ruled out military action.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday that Iran's atomic ambitions must be curbed, adding that "all options" were on the table.

"We have prepared ourselves for any situation, even for war," Manouchehr Mohammadi, one of the foreign minister's deputies, was quoted by ISNA as saying. Iran says it wants only to generate nuclear power.

Iranian military commanders have said recent war games, the latest of which involved testing several missiles this month, showed Iran's readiness to counter any attack.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was quoted by Iran's official IRNA news agency as saying during trip to South Africa that Tehran would react "proportionately" to any further pressure and it wanted more talks.

"Iran is ready to resolve existing differences over its nuclear program through fruitful and careful negotiations," he said. He urged Security Council members due to meet in London in the coming days not to continue their "hostile behavior."

Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats say most U.S. intelligence shared with the UN nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the Central Intelligence Agency and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret-weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.

"Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong," a senior diplomat at the IAEA said.

The reliability of U.S. information and assessments on Iran is increasingly at issue as the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush confronts the emerging regional power on several fronts: its expanding nuclear effort, its alleged support for insurgents in Iraq and its backing of Middle East militant groups.

A senior Iranian aerospace official said the country had successfully launched a missile capable of reaching space, the state television web site reported, although it gave few details.

The technology to launch a missile into space can be used to build intercontinental ballistic missiles. Tehran says its longest range missile now can hit targets 2,000 kilometers away.

(The Moscow Times 26.ii.07)

 
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