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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 February, 2005, 10:56 GMT
Iran spurns European reactor deal
Generator in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes
Iran has said it will not give up its plans to build a heavy-water nuclear reactor.

European negotiators had offered to replace a heavy-water nuclear reactor with a light-water reactor.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi dismissed the offer, saying Iran wanted to be a major player in nuclear fuel supply in 15 years.

The US fears Iran's programme could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Sunday's Washington Post reported that the United States had been sending unmanned drones over Iran since April 2004 trying to gather evidence of any weapons programme.

Military action

European negotiators have been trying to get Iran to give guarantees about its nuclear programme and one of the major incentives on the table has been the offer of a light-water research reactor.

Hamid Reza Asefi
We have told the Europeans to tell their American allies not to play with fire
Hamid Reza Asefi,
Iranian foreign ministry

Mr Asefi said Iran welcomed the offer from Europe but would not give up its heavy-water plant being built at Arak, in central Iran.

"We intend to turn into an important and a major player in the nuclear fuel supply market in the next 15 years because there will be an energy shortage in the future," he said.

Mr Asefi added: "We have told the Europeans to tell their American allies not to play with fire and the Europeans received that message perfectly well."

The debate over Iran's programme, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes, concerns enriched uranium.

Low grades are used for nuclear reactor fuel, but higher grades can be used in atomic bombs.

Iran suspended enrichment temporarily in November as part of a dialogue process with the European Union.

The Europeans want the suspension to become permanent - Iran says it will decide in three months.

US President George Bush has refused to rule out military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons - though he has also emphasised the role of diplomacy.

Mr Bush has accused Iran of "pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve".

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