Iran to continue pursuing nuclear technology, supreme leader says; UN inspectors turned away

By NASSER KARIMI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

said Monday that Tehran will continue to pursue nuclear technology,

despite a U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend uranium

enrichment by the end of the month or face the threat of economic

and diplomatic sanctions.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has made its own decision and in

the nuclear case, God willing, with patience and power, will

continue its path," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state

television.

In Austria, diplomats and U.N. officials said Iran has turned

away U.N. inspectors wanting to examine its underground nuclear

site in an apparent violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation

Treaty.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of

the confidentiality of the information, told The Associated Press

that Iran's unprecedented refusal to allow access to the facility

at Natanz could seriously hamper international efforts to ensure

that Tehran is not trying to make nuclear weapons.

Khamenei's declaration came on the eve of Iran's self-imposed

Aug. 22 deadline to respond to a Western incentives package for it

to roll back its nuclear program. The United Nations has given

Tehran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment.

He accused the United States of putting pressure on Iran despite

Tehran's assertions that its nuclear program was peaceful.

"Arrogant powers and the U.S. are putting their utmost pressure on

Iran while knowing Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons," he said.

Iran on Sunday said it will offer a "multifaceted response" to

the incentives proposal. It insisted that it won't suspend uranium

enrichment altogether.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month

requiring the halt to enrichment under threat of economic and

diplomatic sanctions.

Also on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for a

"solid answer" from Iran on the package.

"I still hope that it will be positive, although some signals

have been very confused," said Merkel, whose country drew up the

package with the five permanent Security Council members.

The proposal includes promises that the United States and Europe

will provide civilian nuclear technology and that Washington will

join direct talks with Iran.

Tehran says uranium enrichment does not violate any of its

obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and that its

nuclear program aims to produce electricity.

Khamenei accused the West of wanting to obstruct scientific

progress in the Islamic world and called for Islamic countries to

stand together in the face of such pressure.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-21-06 1020EDT