Iran Rejects Nuclear Incentives

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran rejected recent European overtures to halt its uranium enrichment program in return for incentives and vowed Saturday to continue to expand its nuclear program.

"Iran does not trade its rights in return for incentives," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters. "The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights."

The spokesman, however, said Iran will still talk to Europe about its nuclear program.

"Iran has always stated that the door to dialogue and interaction with the outside world, European or non-European is open," Elham said.

The European Union said last month that it was open for further talks with Iran despite U.N. Security Council's approval of a third round of sanctions over the country's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

Six key nations also pledged to enhance a 2006 package of political, security and economic incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Those countries are the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Iran has repeatedly said its right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was "nonnegotiable."

The U.S., EU, Israel and others suspect Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is aimed solely at producing nuclear energy.

Iran says a report released by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in February vindicated Iran's nuclear program and left no justification for any Security Council sanctions.

The 11-page report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said all major past issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities had been fully resolved or are "no longer outstanding at this stage," repeatedly saying the IAEA's findings are consistent with information available to the agency and explanations provided by Iran.

Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press on Thursday that Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced machines reflecting a possible intention to speed up uranium enrichment.

One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently are more advanced than the thousands already running underground.

Elham said the government hoped to offer "good news" to the nation on Iran's "achievements" on April 8, declared as the National Day of Nuclear Technology.

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