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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Iran 'will not bow to pressure'
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The supreme leader says nuclear energy is a prime objective
Iran will not bow to Western pressure over its nuclear programme, the country's supreme leader has said, according to Iranian state media.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments come as the Iran nuclear row is discussed by the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

But Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said Tehran was seriously considering a package aimed at inducing it to suspend nuclear work, Reuters agency said.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Iran hoped for an "amicable solution" to the row.

However, he warned against the "language of threat", and said his country would negotiate only without preconditions.

The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China have put together a package of measures to try to persuade Tehran to end enrichment of uranium.

Iran insists its programme is entirely peaceful and is designed to meet its energy needs only, but the US and other powers suspect it is aiming to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

Oil less important

Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran would continue to enrich uranium, as one of its prominent scientific objectives.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not succumb to these pressures and it considers the continuation [of its nuclear programme] a main objective," he was quoted as saying.

Nuclear energy was more important to Iran than extraction of oil, he added. Oil makes up 80% of Iran's foreign exchange earnings.

The IAEA is currently discussing two reports by its chairman, Mohammad ElBaradei, saying that Iran is continuing to obstruct its investigation into its nuclear intentions and refusal to halt enrichment.

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