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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 03:08 GMT
Iran leader backs talks on Iraq
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Mashhad
Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran had "experience" of UN "threats"
Iran's supreme spiritual leader has backed talks with the United States on the instability in Iraq - but warned Washington against "bullying" tactics.

This marks the first time Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly endorsed such talks, which are under discussion.

Ayatollah Khamenei also warned Iran will not accept any UN Security Council ruling on its nuclear plans that goes against its interests.

The council is considering what action to take over Iran's nuclear activities.

The comments by Ayatollah Khamanei, who holds final say on all state matters in Iran, follow criticism by conservatives of a major shift in Iranian policy in agreeing to hold high-level negotiations with the US.

'Cunning Americans'

Speaking in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran was open to a dialogue with the US on the situation in Iraq, but warned: "If it means opening a scene for the cunning Americans to continue their bullying, the negotiations with the Americans on Iraq will be forbidden."

Nuclear technology and the nuclear fuel cycle is our absolute right
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
He said a meeting with the US would allow Iran to tell Washington it should leave Iraq and allow Iraqis to govern themselves unhindered.

US President George W Bush has backed the dialogue as a means to tell Iran "what's right or wrong in their activities inside Iraq".

No date has been set for a meeting but both nations have said it would not include any discussion of the nuclear issue.

UN 'threats'

Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran would reject any UN measures aimed at stopping his country from pursuing what Tehran insists is a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

"We had experience of the Security Council [threats] at the time of the [Iranian] war with Iraq. Whatever is against the interest of the country we will not accept.

"We emphasise that nuclear technology and the nuclear fuel cycle is our absolute right," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are this week continuing to search for a common position on how to deal with Iran's nuclear activities.

Britain, France and the United States are backing a draft council statement that would call for Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities.


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