Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Tehran will not give up its nuclear programme, but noted that the West and Iran are now cooperating -- remarks that appear to reinforce Iran`s support for the general outline of a UN-drafted nuclear deal.
The speech by Iran`s President came on the same day Iran has promised to deliver its decision on the UN pact, which seeks to ease Western worries about Tehran`s ability to produce a nuclear warhead.
Ahmadinejad`s speech suggested that Iran will stick by earlier comments that support the framework of the deal, but demand some changes. A key point is how quickly Iran is willing to send its stockpile of low-enriched uranium outside the country for further processing.
Ahmadinejad said the West has moved "from confrontation to interaction" with Iran over its uranium enrichment programme, which he called an "inalienable right of the Iranian nation".
"Today we reached a very important point," Ahmadinejad said, speaking at a rally in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
"Ground has been paved for nuclear cooperation" and Tehran is ready to now work on nuclear fuel supplies and technical know-how with the UN nuclear watchdog, he added.
But he insisted his government "will not retreat even an iota" over the nation`s right to pursue a nuclear programme -- which the West fears masks a nuclear arms ambition.
Iran denies the charge and says the uranium enrichment programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes, to make fuel.