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Iranian official asserts nuclear rights

NEW DELHI -- Iran yesterday shrugged off growing pressure from the United States to abandon its nuclear program, saying it was not violating international laws that allow the peaceful use of atomic energy.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said his country was well within its rights to develop its nuclear program, which he insisted was in accordance with regulations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

''We are not going to renounce our universally recognized right" to develop the nuclear program, Kharrazi said.

''We are not concerned about the threats from Americans because they know themselves that Iran is very different from other countries. We are capable enough to defend ourselves," Kharrazi said at a meeting organized by a state-run foreign policy think tank.

Kharrazi is on a two-day visit to India, a country with which Iran has traditionally had close ties.

In his lecture, he touched on the Middle East peace process, stability in the region, and US efforts to usher in democracy in countries ruled by autocratic regimes. However, much of the lecture and the question-and-answer session that followed focused on Iran's nuclear program.

Tehran, he said, was cooperating with the IAEA and the European countries on its atomic program ''constantly and positively."

The United States accuses Iran of having a secret program to make nuclear weapons, and Washington has been pushing for sanctions by the UN Security Council. Iran insists its nuclear activities are aimed only at a peaceful purpose, the generation of energy.

He said President Bush was adopting a conciliatory approach toward Europe as America realized it could not ensure global law and order on its own.

''We have the United Nations, the UN Security Council; there is no need for a superpower to act unilaterally. What has happened in Iraq will not be repeated elsewhere. Certainly, the Americans have come to this understanding," Kharrazi said.

Kharrazi said the presence of American troops in the Middle East was a ''matter of concern" to all countries there.

''America is making a mistake if it thinks it can solve the Middle East problem through force," he said.

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