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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 September, 2004, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Iran defends nuclear programme
A general view of Iran's first nuclear reactor, being built in Bushehr
Critics ask why fuel-rich Iran wants nuclear energy too
Iran has rejected a European bid to make it abandon its controversial nuclear activities but insists it is not pursuing atomic weapons.

Germany, France and the UK have drawn up a deadline of November for Iran to abandon all parts of the atomic fuel cycle, particularly uranium enrichment.

The proposal is due to be raised at a meeting of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog in Vienna on Monday.

The Iranian foreign ministry said the idea was "out of the question".

"If the Europeans and the international community want assurances that nuclear technology will be for peaceful purposes, we are ready to give assurances," ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters in Tehran.

"But if the issue is that we cannot master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, that is out of the question because we have already reached that point."

November decision

The European trio due to submit its draft resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has already been involved in delicate negotiations to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The United States has led concern that the Islamic Republic is developing a nuclear industry which could be used to build weapons.

Iran has bought most of its nuclear technology from Russia.

The draft resolution gives Iran until November to dispel doubts over its programme, at which stage the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, would decide what further action is needed, if any.

The US has asked for the issue to go to the UN Security Council which has the power to impose sanctions or worse.

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