But it will continue for now to discuss the issue with Europe and the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Khatami told the French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published on Tuesday.

Washington backs these talks but says, like the EU, that they must end with Iran giving up uranium enrichment, a process that can produce material for nuclear weapons as well as fuel for power plants.

Iran says it has no ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.

No suspension

"We are ready to consider any reasonable solution, but we refuse to suspend our [nuclear] activities for good," Khatami told Le Figaro.

"The Europeans have to understand that the [nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty and international agreements allow us to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."

Khatami considers a US attack on
Iran's nuclear facilities unlikely

Khatami had talks scheduled later on Tuesday with French President Jacques Chirac.

France, Britain and Germany are offering Iran political and economic incentives to terminate and dismantle its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran says it has suspended all work linked to enrichment while the talks proceed.

EU says if Iran resumes enrichment, it will support a US plan to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council, which could impose economic sanctions.

Ready to defend

"I hope that this problem can be resolved as soon as possible. But if, through pressure, people try to force us to give up peaceful nuclear power, that will be unacceptable," Le Figaro quoted Khatami as saying.

He said he took seriously the threat of a possible military attack by the United States on Iran's nuclear facilities.

"We are preparing for it, but it seems unlikely. Such a strike would be to the detriment of Iran and its attackers. 

"Let's hope that the latter remain rational. But we are prepared to defend ourselves against any form of irrationality."