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Iran stays firm on nuclear program

TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday it would not stop uranium conversion and warned of consequences if it was referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran wants to continue dialogue with Europe without preconditions and rejected a US-European threat that Tehran has about a week to freeze uranium-processing activities or face referral to the Security Council.

''There is no legal or legitimate reason, given Iran's transparent activities and its open cooperation with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] . . . that Iran be referred to the UN Security Council," Mottaki said at a news conference.

''If a political decision is made to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, it will be entering a lose-lose game," he said. ''It will have its own certain consequences and will affect Iran's decisions. We prefer that such a game is not played."

Mottaki also said Iran plans to seek bids for building two more nuclear power plants in the Islamic republic. Russia is finishing a plant in Bushehr that Iran expects to begin producing electricity early next year.

The United States accuses Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to secretly produce nuclear weapons. Iran has rejected the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not a bomb.

Mottaki said Tehran would ignore European calls to stop uranium conversion, which was resumed last month at its Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan.

''The issue of re-suspension of work in Isfahan doesn't exist in our agenda," Mottaki vowed. But he said Iran was willing to continue dialogue over its nuclear program with European negotiators.

Britain, Germany, and France, negotiating on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, say they may help draft a resolution demanding Iran be referred to the Security Council if it does not stop uranium conversion by the IAEA's Sept. 19 board meeting.

The threat came after a recent report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Tehran had produced about seven tons of the gas needed to enrich uranium -- a possible pathway to a nuclear weapon -- after restarting work in Isfahan.

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