President Muhammad Khatami also said Iran would not accept any decision denying the country of the right to possess the whole nuclear fuel cycle - including uranium enrichment - but he emphasised that Tehran's policy was based on cooperating with the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We will continue cooperation with the IAEA as long as our interests require and as long as we know various plots led by the US are ineffective," Khatami told reporters on Wednesday.

The president accused the United States of bringing the "worst pressures on the IAEA and various member states of the (IAEA) board of governors" during last week's Vienna meeting in which Washington hoped to get Iran's nuclear dossier referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

"We have no obligation toward anybody other than what our interests require. We cooperate with the IAEA voluntarily," he said.

Inspections

Iranian officials announced an indefinite freeze on further inspections of its nuclear programme after the IAEA board of governors censured Tehran for hiding suspicious activities. However, IAEA director Muhammad al-Baradai said confidently at the time that he didn't expect any substantive delay.

Inspections at Iran's nuclear
facilities will resume on 27 March

Soon, Iran reversed its position and inspections are to resume on 27 March.

Khatami said the freeze imposed on international inspections was just to show Iran's displeasure with the resolution. It was, he said: "A warning to the IAEA not to be influenced by the US. But ... we continue our cooperation with IAEA on the basis of legal regulations."

Khatami said Iran expects the IAEA and its European partners, namely France, Britain and Germany, to work to get Iran's nuclear dossier off the UN agency's agenda.

Iran was "not unhopeful that this happens in the future, but how far our hope is materialised will depend on US pressures and the strength or weakness of our European partners."

US persistence

In Washington, meanwhile, the US kept up its criticism of Iran, with a US State Department spokesman calling the brief freeze on inspections "a continuation of a pattern of delay and deception and denial." State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Tuesday that Iran must "come clean fully, unequivocally and completely".

"Possessing technology for the nuclear fuel cycle is our right and nobody can deny us of this right under international regulations"

Muhammad Khatami
president, Iran

Al-Baradai, who met with State Department officials reminded reporters in Washington that Iran had made "a strategic decision to come clean." He said the Iranians "understand they must come forward".

Khatami also said Iran has suspended uranium enrichment temporarily to build trust with the IAEA, but he reiterated Iran's position that it won't give it up forever.

"Possessing technology for the nuclear fuel cycle is our right and nobody can deny us of this right under international regulations," he said. Nuclear enrichment is part of the fuel cycle.

Low-enriched uranium is used as fuel for nuclear reactors to produce electricity and highly enriched uranium is used for nuclear bombs.

"We don't accept any impositions," Khatami insisted.