In his first reaction to a new call for Tehran to end uranium enrichment, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo), Iranian president, said that his country will not “retreat one iota” in its nuclear activities.
Iran has been asked by envoys from the US, EU and UN to give an answer within two weeks, or face possible sanctions.
On Saturday, the meeting in Geneva marked the first time US and Iranian officials have held face-to-face talks about Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.
“The Iranian people are steadfast”, president Ahmadinejad said.
In a televised speech made to thousands of supporters in the southern town of Yasouj, he said that the Iranians “will not retreat one iota in the face of oppressing powers”.
Language of defiance
But saying it was a “positive step forward” towards recognising Iran’s right to acquire nuclear technology, he praised US participation in the Geneva talks.
Though Iran says its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes, the US and its allies believe it could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.
The speech contains the familiar language of defiance from President Ahmadinejad, but it is the first time he has spoken out this strongly since the latest round of diplomacy gave some hope of a peaceful end to the crisis, said the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Tehran, making any sign of progress in the talks extremely unlikely.
Iran did not respond in the way diplomats had hoped to a so-called “freeze-for-freeze” offer, meaning that a freeze of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme at its current levels would be matched by a Western pledge not to strengthen sanctions on Tehran
By continuing its nuclear activity, Tehran is defying UN Security Council demands to halt enrichment.