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Iran Stands by Nuclear Plans at U.N. Talks

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Iran showed no signs of backing down in its nuclear standoff with the United States today. Iran's foreign minister told a United Nations conference that his country is determined to develop nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment. Iran says this is for peaceful purposes, that Washington accuses Tehran of planning to build a bomb. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

As officials from nearly 190 countries review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, highlighted what he said was his country's inalienable right under the treaty to develop nuclear technology.

Mr. KAMAL KHARRAZI (Foreign Minister, Iran): Iran, for its part, is determined to pursue all legal areas of nuclear technology, including enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes.

KELEMEN: Tensions between Iran and the US have overshadowed the start of the monthlong conference. The head of the US delegation, assistant Secretary of State for arms control Stephen Rademaker, used his opening comments yesterday to urge countries to deny nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea, because, he argued, they have violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT.

Mr. STEPHEN RADEMAKER (Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Department of State): For almost two decades, Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear weapons program, aided by the illicit network of A.Q. Khan. Iran has made clear its determination to maintain the nuclear infrastructure it secretly built in violation of its NPT safeguards obligations, and is continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities around the margins of the suspension it agreed to last November.

KELEMEN: That's when Iran promised European negotiators it would suspend a uranium enrichment program. Today, Foreign Minister Kharrazi made clear Iran won't give up the program, however.

Mr. KHARRAZI: No one should be under the illusion that objective guarantees can theoretically or practically amount to cessation or even long-term suspension of legal activity.

KELEMEN: But Bush administration officials continued to argue today that the only way Iran could satisfy them that its nuclear program is peaceful would be to stop the enrichment programs altogether. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.