Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Saturday, 12 December 2009

Iran's Mottaki defiant on UN nuclear sanctions threat

Iranian Foreign Minster Manouchehr Mottaki addresses reporters in Manama, Bahrain, 12 December
Mr Mottaki was attending a regional security conference in Bahrain

The Iranian foreign minister has dismissed the threat of new sanctions, saying his country needs up to 15 nuclear power plants to meet its needs.

Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking in Bahrain, also said Iran was ready to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods, in line with a UN proposal.

Earlier, the US, UK and France warned Iran to comply with UN Security Council resolutions or face new sanctions.

Iran insists its programme is not aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.

Speaking before an audience of defence chiefs and ministers from both the Middle East and the West, Mr Mottaki said the idea of threatening his country with sanctions was a backward step. Sanctions, he said, were illegal and ineffective.

"We need 10 to 15 nuclear plants to generate electricity in our country," he added. Iran currently has only one Russian-built nuclear power plant, which is still under construction.

Turning to the UN fuel scheme, he said Tehran was ready initially to exchange 400kg (880lb) of low-enriched uranium kept on Kish Island for "an amount equivalent to 20% of the original batch".

Last month, the UN Security Council rebuked Iran for developing a new uranium enrichment site in secret, and pressure for additional sanctions has grown.

Saturday's speech did little to reassure Iran's anxious Gulf Arab neighbours, the BBC's Frank Gardner reports from the conference.

Above all, they fear a confrontation between Iran and Israel but they also fear environmental pollution from Iran's nuclear facilities and worry about Iran's regional ambitions, our correspondent says.

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