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Iran: West Won't Deprive Us Of Nukes

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Friday that the West won't deprive Iran of its nuclear technology, sounding a defiant note after the world's major powers stepped up pressure for Tehran to accept a new package of incentives to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Ahmadinejad did not directly mention the package agreed to on Thursday by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, which urges Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and come back to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.

But he insisted on Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology.

"The efforts of some Western countries to deprive us will not bear any fruit," he said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

"The reason of their opposition is not their claim of concern over nuclear weapons, but Iran's access to the technology that means opening of the way for all independent countries, especially Islamic countries to the advanced technology," he said after talks with the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

He said Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has cooperated with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, and he indirectly blamed Israel for the pressure on Tehran to give up enrichment.

"Unfortunately, some who have huge arsenals of nuclear weapons and are not members of NPT, are today in the position of decision making and want to deprive us from our inalienable rights," he said.

CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod says the Bush administration is pointing out that the rejection comes before the package of incentives for the Iranians to stop enriching uranium — and consequences if they don't — has even been presented to them. But the possibility exists, Axelrod adds, that the Iranians don't want to make a deal.

"We want to have the diplomacy take its natural course now," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. "But it's obvious to everyone that this has been going on for a while, and we need to know whether there's an opportunity for a real negotiation or not.

"This is a way out of the impasse — if Iran indeed wants a way out of the impasse."

The united front among the United States, Europe, Russia and China — reached in talks in Vienna on Thursday — puts unprecedented pressure on Tehran to accept the deal.

Rice told CBS News the U.S. can wait – for now.

"I hope that the Iranian government will take a little time to think about this proposal that is being presented to it. This is a way out of the impasse if Iran, indeed, wants a way out of the impasse," Rice told CBS News' The Early Show.

"There's not an ultimatum here," she insisted. "But there is a choice. The international community needs to know if Iran intends to negotiate seriously. After all, this has been going on now for a very long time."

Details of the offer have not been made public, and a senior State Department official in Vienna said the Iranians will be given the package in the next few days. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give statements on the matter.

The package would be on the table for a proposed new round of bargaining with Tehran over what the West calls a rogue nuclear program that could produce a bomb. The U.S., in a major policy shift, agreed this week to join those talks under certain conditions. It would be the first major public negotiations between the adversaries in more than a quarter century.

Rice met with the foreign ministers from the European nations that led talks with Iran that stalled last year. Also present were representatives of Russia and China, which have been Tehran's trading partners and might join in any future talks with Iran.

The Security Council's permanent, veto-holding members have been at odds over the possibility of sanctions, with Russia and China opposed. The U.S. needs their cooperation to seek sanctions or other harsh measures by that body.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said that if Iran returned to the talks stalled since last year, "we would also suspend action in the Security Council."

The Security Council, which can levy mandatory global sanctions and back its mandates with military force, has been reviewing Iran's case for two months.

Uranium enrichment is a crucial process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material needed for a bomb.

Iranian state media were dismissive of Thursday's gathering in Vienna.

"The noisy 5-plus-1 meeting ended without a new proposal for Iran," state television commented during its report on Thursday's gathering in Vienna.

Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's nuclear program, was quoted Friday as ruling out the U.S. condition.

"Tehran is determined to conclude its peaceful nuclear program," he said, according to the ISNA news agency. "The Iranian people will not allow us to suspend enrichment."

"The conditions set by the U.S. for joining talks with Iran were a big insult to the Iranian nation," he said. "Accepting the U.S. conditions is almost impossible."

Saeedi was responding to the U.S. demand for a suspension of enrichment before any direct negotiations between the two countries. The ISNA report did not say when he spoke, and it was not known if it was before or after the Vienna agreement was announced.
Iran announced April 11 it had enriched uranium for the first time, using 164 centrifuges. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead — but tens of thousands of centrifuges are needed to do either on a large scale.

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