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Talks Won't Deter Iran From Nuke Plans

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants negotiations on Iran's nuclear program but won't halt uranium enrichment ahead of talks, U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Sunday after meeting with the Iranian leader.

Annan's two-day visit to Tehran comes after Iran ignored a United Nations deadline to halt uranium enrichment by the end of August, opening the door to possible sanctions.

"On the nuclear issue, the president reaffirmed to me Iran's preparedness and commitment to hold negotiations" with Western powers to find a solution to the impasse over Tehran's nuclear work, Annan said at a joint news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki.

However, Ahmadinejad "reiterated that he did not accept suspension before negotiations," the U.N. chief said, conveying Iran's rejection of a condition set by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Ahmadinejad did not attend the news conference or give any statements. On Saturday — the first day of Annan's visit — he reiterated at a rally that Tehran would continue its nuclear activities.

In June, Iran was offered an incentives package to roll back its nuclear program. Tehran's lack of cooperation with U.N. inspectors has raised concerns it is trying to produce nuclear weapons. It says its atomic program is peaceful, aiming to generate electricity.

Iran's slowness in responding to the package prompted the Security Council to issue a resolution July 31 demanding that Tehran halt uranium enrichment by the end of August.

On Sunday, Mottaki said the council issued the resolution "under pressure from the United States and Britain" and described it as a "mistake" and a "black mark against them."

Iran did respond to the incentive package Aug. 22, rejecting the stipulation that it stop enriching uranium before talks begin. The content of its response has not been made public.

Iran appeared more responsive to U.N. concerns regarding Lebanon, where Tehran is a backer of the Hezbollah guerrilla group.

Ahmadinejad "reaffirmed his country's support for the implementation of resolution 1701," Annan said, referring to the resolution that imposed a cease-fire in fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and included measures to prevent the rearming of Islamic militia.

The U.N. chief did not disclose specifics of his talks on the topic with the Iranian president. After meeting with Annan on Saturday, Mottaki made a vague promise to support the resolution, but did not directly mention Hezbollah.

Annan also reiterated his displeasure over an exhibit in Tehran of cartoons on the Holocaust. The exhibit is a response to the outrage among Muslims caused by the publication earlier this year of the Danish cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Earlier Sunday, Iran's Foreign Ministry said the country planned to hold a conference this fall questioning evidence of the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad has dismissed the Holocaust as a myth, provoking an international outcry.

Annan's meeting with the Iranian president came on the final day of his two-day visit to Iranian capital on a tour that has included stops in Lebanon, Israel and Syria. He is slated to make stops in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.

The Security Council set last Thursday as the deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, dangling the threat of sanctions if Iran defied its will.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Thursday that Iran had not suspended enrichment and that three years of probing had been unable to confirm "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program" because of lack of cooperation from Tehran.

But Russia and China, among the five permanent members of the council with the power to veto its actions, are opposed to quick and harsh penalties because of their strong trade ties with Iran.

Iran says its nuclear program is intended only to obtain fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity, but enrichment also can produce the material needed to make atomic bombs.

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