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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 12:02 GMT
Iranian leader pledges resistance
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad
Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran would defend its right to nuclear energy
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to resist increasing international pressure over the country's nuclear programme.

"No power" could take away nuclear technology, he told a crowd of thousands in Gorgan, northern Iran.

The UN Security Council will meet this week to discuss Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Meanwhile Russian and Iranian officials were holding talks in Moscow on a compromise plan, Russian media said.

Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov met Iranian negotiator Ali Hoseyni-Tash for closed-door talks, the Russian Security Council said.

They should know that by such pressures they cannot stop the Iranian people from continuing their course
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
Iranian president

Russia has sought to persuade Iran to move its uranium enrichment programme to Russian territory, which would allow closer international monitoring.

Mr Ahmadinejad told the crowd on Tuesday that "major powers" were "trying to block the progress of other nations through bullying and harassment".

"They should know that by such pressures they cannot stop the Iranian people from continuing their course," he said.

"No power" could take nuclear fuel technology away from Iranians, he said.

"One of them delivered a so-called speech yesterday by saying that not all the Iranian people are pursuing nuclear energy," he said, in what appeared to be a reference to a speech by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Monday.

"I am telling them to open their ears and listen to the cry of the people of Gorgan and Golestan concerning nuclear energy," he told the crowd, which began chanting "Nuclear energy is our absolute right".

Iran's nuclear plant at Natanz
The IAEA says Iran has begun the process to produce nuclear fuel

On Monday, Mr Straw said that Iranian policies were damaging the country's reputation and its ties with the rest of the world.

He said that the Iranian people "deserved better" than their current government, but said change had to come from within.

He rejected the idea of "regime change" and told the BBC that the nuclear issue should be resolved "by peaceful and democratic means".

'Strong message'

Last week the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referred Iran to the Security Council after months of growing tension over the country's nuclear programme.

The Security Council starts talks this week and has the power to impose sanctions.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she expected the Security Council to agree on a "very strong message" for Iran.

Speaking during a two-day trip to Indonesia, Ms Rice said she was confident an "appropriate vehicle" would be found to stress the solidarity of the international community on the issue.

"There is no-one in a responsible community of states that wants to see them have a nuclear weapon," she said.

Iran has vowed to resist international pressure, saying that it has the right to peaceful nuclear technology. It denies US and EU accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

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