Iranian Ayatollah Stands Firm on Nukes

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; 8:29 AM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday his country would continue to acquire nuclear technology and challenge what he called "Western fabrications."

Speaking before a crowd of thousands in Semnan, 155 miles east of Tehran, Khamenei said most countries believe "nuclear energy should be taken away from the hands of a few powers," state media reported.

"The Americans open their mouth and close their eyes and say whatever they want, such as 'the world opposes enrichment,'" Khamenei said, referring to Iran's enrichment of uranium, which the United Nations has said must cease.

The supreme leader, whose word is final on key decisions, spoke as the U.N. Security Council is wrangling over how to respond to Iran's refusal halt uranium enrichment.

"In a glorious way, the Iranian nation _ with awareness, an informed generation and reason _ has challenged Western fabrications and will go ahead strongly," Khamenei said.

The United States and its European allies fear that Iran could use enrichment to build nuclear weapons, and have proposed a raft of sanctions to try to curb the country's nuclear development. Russia and China share those concerns, but seek much softer measures to induce Iran's cooperation.

Last week, Russia said it would only support U.N. sanctions on Iran if they were for a limited time and included a clear mechanism for their removal.

Iran, which has praised Moscow for its "softer policy," denies plans to build atomic bombs, saying it is merely trying to harness nuclear energy to generate electricity.

A senior Russian nuclear official said Moscow would soon assess the timetable for completing construction of Iran's first nuclear power station. Experts say that Moscow, which has refused to back the European-proposed U.N. sanctions, could be using its $1 billion project in Bushehr, southern Iran, as a lever of influence on Tehran.

Sergei Shmatko, head of the Russian state company that is in charge of constructing Bushehr, said that work so far was on schedule, according to ITAR-Tass. Later this month, he said, officials would "determine the final timetable for its launch."

© 2006 The Associated Press