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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Wednesday that the world must give in to what he said was Iran's right to enrich uranium.
The Iranian leader was apparently responding to the US-Russian rejection of a proposal to allow Iran to carry out research-scale uranium enrichment in return for suspension of large-scale enrichment.
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"Our nation has made its decision to fully use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and all have to give in to this decision made by the Iranian nation," said Ahmadinejad. "If anybody seeks to violate our rights, the Iranian nation will place the sign of disgrace on their forehead," he told thousands of people gathered in Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan province in western Iran.
"All countries can contribute (in Iran's nuclear program). But if they want to ignore the rights of our nation, we have made our choice."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, visiting Washington on Tuesday, rejected the notion of an Iranian compromise that would see Teheran suspend full-scale uranium enrichment for up to two years but still retain a small enrichment program.
A diplomat told The Associated Press that Iran made the suspension offer last week during talks in Moscow. The offer reflected Teheran's attempts to escape Security Council action over the enrichment, which can be used to make nuclear arms. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was confidential.
Russia has proposed a joint venture in which it would enrich uranium for Iran to keep that critical component of the nuclear fuel process from potential misuse in Iran. The United States supports the plan in principle, but Iran has not signed on.
"There is no compromise on the new Russian proposal," Lavrov said.
Rice said, "The United States has been very clear that enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the proliferation risk."
Russia, which has veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council, is perhaps Teheran's most important ally and business partner. Russia has gone along with US efforts to refer the nuclear issue to the council but has never said it would support sanctions or other harsh punishment there.
"Have you seen a proposal for any sanctions?" Lavrov snapped at reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Bush on Tuesday. "This is a hypothetical question, yes?"
At the State Department earlier, Lavrov appeared to warn the United States not to push Iran so hard that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or kick out international inspectors.
The treaty allows for some UN oversight of a nascent nuclear program that Iran says is meant to one day produce nuclear energy, not bombs. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency has accused Iran of violating the treaty and concealing the extent of its nuclear activities. A possible Security Council rebuke could be based on those findings, along with anything new that inspectors turn up.
The United States, Israel and several Arab nations fear development of an Iranian bomb would put Israel at risk or forever change the balance of power in the Middle East.
Washington warned Tuesday of "meaningful consequences" if the Islamic government does not back away from an international confrontation. It also rejected any potential 11th hour compromise to allow Iran to develop nuclear fuel that could be used for weapons.
The Bush administration also wanted Russian assurances that Moscow will not coddle Hamas now that it has taken control of the Palestinian legislature.
Lavrov held multiple meetings with Rice, and was accorded the kind of White House welcome usually reserved for foreign heads of state or government, not foreign ministers.
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