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Iran will not bow to Western pressure, leader says

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will not give up its rights in the face of Western pressure, its supreme leader said on Sunday, two days after major powers said they would make a new offer to convince Tehran to halt its nuclear plans.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at Shiraz, 895 km south of Tehran, April 30, 2008. REUTERS/IRNA/Files

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not explicitly mention Iran’s nuclear activities, which Western powers suspect are aimed at making bombs, but Iranian officials have repeatedly ruled out halting the programme which they say is a national right.

State television said Khamenei cited “some recent threats by arrogant powers”, a reference to the Islamic Republic’s Western foes. The United States has recently repeated it wants diplomacy to end the nuclear row but will not rule out military action.

“We will not allow the arrogant ones to step on the right of this nation,” he said in a speech in the southern province of Fars. “Threatening the Iranian nation will not make it retreat.”

“This nation has chosen its path towards perfection, honour, complete independence ... and no threat can persuade (it) to stop its path,” Khamenei, Iran’s top authority, told the crowd.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia -- and Germany met in London on Friday and said they would offer new incentives to encourage Iran to halt nuclear work.

The offer, whose details have not been made public, is based on a package of economic and political benefits laid out by the six big powers in June 2006 but so far spurned by Iran.

Iranian officials have in recent weeks again rejected any suspension of the atomic work in exchange for trade and other incentives offered to the world’s fourth-largest oil producer.

Iran says it wants only to make fuel for power plants. The enrichment process, if desired, can also be used to make material for bombs.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of limited sanctions on Iran for failing to heed the demand to suspend enrichment work.

Analysts say windfall gains from oil exports are helping Iran cushion the sanctions impact, even though Western companies have become more wary of investing in the country.

The incentives offered to Iran in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended uranium enrichment and negotiated with the six world powers.

A European diplomat has said the heart of the previous offer -- helping Iran develop civil nuclear power -- remained. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said details would be revealed by the six only to Iran’s government.

Iran discussed its own package of proposals with a visiting Russian official last week about how to resolve the nuclear row. It has not given details about those plans.