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Iran challenges US, invites it to participate in Iranian nuke plans

Iran on Monday put up a serious challenge to the US, inviting American firms to participate in the Islamic Republic's nuclear programs if Washington had serious qualms about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, IRNA reported from Tehran.

"I don't think America is worried about Iran's nuclear programs; if they are, we invite them to come and participate in these programs and construct the facilities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi told reporters during a weekly briefing.

Washington has turned up the heat against Tehran in recent weeks, accusing Iran of pursuing an aggressive nuclear program and harboring suspected terror al-Qaeda elements.

The Islamic Republic rejects the charges. Iran says its nuclear programs are transparent and peaceful, aimed at producing 7,000 megawatts of electricity in the next 20 years when the country's oil and gas reserves become overstretched.

"Most of these statements are pretexts they (Americans) had told the former (Pahlavi) government to come to Iran and build atomic plants," Asefi said.

"We have clearly said we want the nuclear know-how for peaceful objectives. We have other concerns about the country's reconstruction and development and there is no room for nuclear arms in our programs," he added.

The official renewed Tehran's preconditions for joining the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a party, asking western companies to lift their sanctions against the country's nuclear programs.

"The Additional Protocol is a separate issue. It must be confirmed first how the sanctions have affected us while we are a member of the NPT. They (western countries) must help us achieve the nuclear know-how instead of putting restrictions," Asefi said.

... Payvand News - 6/2/03 ... --

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