- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed yesterday that Iran would not give up uranium enrichment, but he otherwise refrained from making fiery statements during celebrations on the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Expected to announce that Iran had started installing 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Natanz plant, the hard-line president said instead that he was prepared to negotiate with the international community.

Mr. Ahmadinejad may have tempered his usual firebrand style in view of a U.N. Security Council demand that Iran halt enrichment by later this month or face additional sanctions.

His relative restraint also is widely thought to show the influence of moderates within the ruling Islamic establishment who are cautioning against provocative statements that could heighten tensions between Iran and the West.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, said yesterday that Iran poses no threat to Israel, and he suggested the government was trying to project a less aggressive image.

Iran says the aim of its nuclear program is to generate electricity, but the United States and some of its allies fear the Islamic republic wants to create the fissile core of nuclear warheads. They have made halting uranium enrichment the main precondition for holding talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States added to its accusations against Iran yesterday when a defense official said high-level Iranian officials were arming Shi’ite militants in Iraq with sophisticated armor-piercing roadside bombs that have killed more than 170 U.S. troops.

Iran has crossed “the arduous passes and stabilized its definite [nuclear] right,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. He said the program would remain within the limits of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bans production of nuclear weapons.

“We are prepared for dialogue but won’t suspend our activities. … The government will defend the rights of the Iranian nation within the framework of the law.”

At a security conference in Germany, Mr. Larijani said Iran’s nuclear program is not a threat to Israel or any other nation.

“That Iran is willing to threaten Israel is wrong,” Mr. Larijani said. “We pose no threat, and if we are conducting nuclear research and development, we are no threat to Israel. We have no intention of aggression against any country.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said he thought Iran was trying to convince the international community that its intentions are benign. “The fact is that they have failed in this attempt, and there is a wall-to-wall consensus that the Iranian nuclear program is indeed military and aggressive and a threat to world peace.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran’s nuclear-technology advances will be made public over the next two months until April 9. He did not explain what would happen on that date, but it marks the first anniversary of Iran’s announcement that it had enriched uranium for the first time.

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog yesterday welcomed Iran’s willingness to resume negotiations but said nothing short of “full transparency” on its part will bring the two sides to the negotiating table.

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