Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran had no use for nuclear weapons, adding that the Islamic Republic would "never" abandon its disputed nuclear program to appease Western critics.
In an NBC-TV interview, the Iranian leader also did not offer a direct response when asked whether there were any conditions under which Iran would develop a nuclear weapon.
"We don't need nuclear weapons," Ahmadinejad said, speaking through an interpreter.
"We do not see any need for such weapons. And the conditions around the world are moving to favor our ideas," Ahmadinejad added.
Iran has repeatedly said it is enriching uranium only to generate electricity, not for fissile bomb material, although it has no nuclear power plants to use low-level enriched uranium.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would "never" halt work on its nuclear program to mollify Western skeptics.
Iran is set to attend talks on Oct. 1 with major powers worried about its nuclear strategy. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week any talks with Iran would have to address the nuclear issue.
"We have always believed in talking, in negotiating, that's our logic. "Nothing has changed," Ahmadinejad said, speaking through an interpreter.
"If you are talking about the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes, this will never be closed down here in Iran," he said.
The P-5 plus 1 (the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany) is concerned that Iran's nuclear enrichment program is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon.
Secret IAEA document: Iran has ability to make atom bomb
On Thursday, a secret report revealed that experts belonging to the United Nations nuclear watchdog organization said they were in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system capable of carrying an atomic warhead, according to a secret report.
The document, drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency, was the clearest indication yet that the agency's leaders share Washington's views on Iran's weapon-making capabilities.
It appeared to be the so-called secret annex on Iran's nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.
The document says Iran has sufficient information to build a bomb. It says Iran is likely to overcome problems on developing a delivery system.
This report comes just as U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that his administration has scrapped Bush administration plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to combat the Iranian threat.
The IAEA, however, later denied the report, saying that it had no proof that Iran has or once had a covert atomic bomb program. In a statement, the organization reaffirmed former IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei's Sept. 9 warning that allegations the agency was sitting on undeniable evidence of Iranian bomb work were "politically motivated and baseless."
"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons program in Iran," the statement said.
Meanwhile Thursday, IAEA member states agreed to call for a Middle East free of nuclear arms, with more countries supporting the resolution than last year.
At the IAEA's annual general conference, 103 countries voted in favor, none against. Only four abstained - including the United States and Israel. Last year, 13 countries abstained on a similar resolution.
Consensus on the resolution was reached only after an indirect reference to Iran and Syria was included in Egypt's draft text.
A deal was reached in discussions in the last days involving Egypt, Israel, Sweden - holding the current European Union presidency - and the United States, according to diplomats.
Alluding to Iran and Syria, the final text of the adopted resolution called on all states in the Middle East to "to cooperate fully with the IAEA within the framework of their respective obligations."
The IAEA said in a recent report that it has made no headway in confirming whether Iran conducted research related to nuclear weapons in the past.
The Vienna-based nuclear agency has also been trying in vain to get more access to Syria, in order to verify whether a site bombed by Israel in 2007 was indeed a secret nuclear reactor under construction.
"We are very pleased with the agreed approach reflected here today in the discussions that we've had on this issue this week," U.S. ambassador Glyn Davies said.
Iran nuclear envoy: Talks with West are a new window of opportunity
The Iranian ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Thursday that Iran believes next month's talks with major powers worried about its nuclear strategy represents a real opportunity,
"This is a real, new window of opportunity that is being opened by the Iranian nation," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told The Washington Post in an interview published on its website late on Thursday.
"They should immediately and promptly seize this opportunity."
Soltanieh repeated Iran's position that it would not agree to use the Oct. 1 meeting with the United States and other major powers to negotiate away its right to a nuclear program.
He said the meeting should be a forum for a broad exchange of views.
"When you sit down at a negotiating table without preconditions, with mutual respect, the rules of the game are that everyone has a right to raise anything. No one can restrict the other to express themselves," he said.
The international group, known as the P-5 plus 1, is made up of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - as well as Germany.
The meeting is a move toward President Barack Obama's pledge during the campaign last year to try to improve relations with Tehran through more direct contacts. The two countries have not had diplomatic ties since 1980.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week any talks with Iran would have to address the nuclear issue. The United States and other major powers are concerned the nuclear enrichment program is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon, but Iran says it is for producing nuclear energy.
Soltanieh, who represents Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tehran would not respond well to a dual "carrot-and-stick" approach offering a choice between dialogue or sanctions, which he called humiliating.
"If you tell me 'You must,' I say 'no.' If you say 'please,' the answer might be 'yes' or 'maybe,'" he said.
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