TEHRAN Iran will not retreat "one iota" on its nuclear rights but is ready to cooperate on issues regarding atomic fuel, power plants and technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.
He said the provision of fuel for a Tehran research reactor was an opportunity for Iran to evaluate the "honesty" of world powers and the U.N. nuclear agency watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Later in the day Iran was expected to present its formal response to a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal which is meant to help ease tension over Tehran's disputed nuclear program. Iranian media say the Islamic Republic will accept the framework of the deal but demand changes to it.
"As long as this government is in power, it will not retreat one iota on the undeniable rights of the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the northeastern city of Mashhad, broadcast live on state television.
"Fortunately, conditions have been prepared for international cooperation in the nuclear field," he said. "We welcome cooperation on nuclear fuel, power plants and technology and we are ready to cooperate."
The draft nuclear fuel deal was hammered out by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei in follow-up talks to an October 1 meeting between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, where Iran also agreed to open a new enrichment site for U.N. inspections.
Ahmadinejad did not say whether Iran would accept the deal or what changes it might want. Iranian demands for changes in the deal could unravel the plan and expose the country to the threat of harsher Western sanctions.
The West suspects Iran is trying to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies this and says its program is aimed at generating electricity.
Under the draft deal put forward by ElBaradei after consultations last week in Vienna with Iran, the United States, France and Russia, Iran would send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad for processing and eventual use in a research reactor.
It calls for Iran to transfer about 75 percent of its known 1.5 tonnes of LEU to Russia for further enrichment by the end of this year, then to France for conversion into fuel plates.
These would be returned to Tehran to power the reactor, which produces radio isotopes for cancer treatment.
"Nuclear fuel supply for the Tehran reactor is an opportunity to evaluate the honesty of the powers and the agency (IAEA)," said Ahmadinejad.
He said Iran expected the world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain -- to fulfill their commitments and keep their promises.
"We are moving on the right track ... and we have absolutely no concerns about a just and legal cooperation which observes the legal rights of the Iranian nation," he said.
Senior Iranian lawmakers have cast doubt on the fuel plan, some saying Tehran should import the fuel it needs for a research reactor rather than send its stockpile abroad. Others have suggested Iran should only agree to send its enriched uranium out of the country in stages.
(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Tim Pearce)