Iran: US must apologize for nuke charges

( AP ) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that a new U.N. report disproved American allegations that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and he called on the Bush administration to apologize for making false accusations.

The U.S. responded that the Iranian government should apologize to its own people for isolating them from the world by provoking international sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency did not directly characterize Iran's nuclear program in its Thursday report. It said Iran had been generally truthful about its past uranium enrichment, which Iran says is intended to generate only fuel for nuclear reactors. But the nuclear watchdog also said that restrictions Iran placed on U.N. inspectors two years ago mean that the agency cannot eliminate the possibility of a secret weapons program.

The White House responded to the report by calling for a third round of U.N. sanctions, saying "selective cooperation is not good enough."

Addressing the U.S. and its allies, Ahmadinejad said on state television that; "You issued two resolutions based on wrong information ... Now that you have found out that this information was wrong, you have to be brave and come forward and tell the Iranian nation, 'We made a mistake' and apologize."

"The whole world saw that their ( U.S.) allegations were not true and that Iran's activities are clean and peaceful," the hard-line president said.

Much of the 10-page IAEA report focused on the history of Iran's black-market procurements and past development of uranium enrichment technology. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for a nuclear reactor or, at a higher level of enrichment, to produce atomic bombs.

The agency repeatedly concluded that " Iran's statements are consistent with ... information available to the agency."

" Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions, and provide (needed) clarifications and amplifications," the report said.

The IAEA also said, however, that Iran continues to defy U.N. Security Council resolutions that it stop uranium enrichment, confirming that Tehran is now running some 3,000 centrifuges.

A senior U.N. official, who agreed to discuss the Iran situation only if not quoted by name, said that many centrifuges running smoothly could produce enough material for a nuclear bomb within 1 1/2 years.

"The Iranian government should apologize to its people for the fact that they have taken them down a pathway of further isolation from the international community," U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.

Britain's Foreign Office said, meanwhile, that talks planned for next week to discuss hardening sanctions over Iran's nuclear program have been postponed, and officials were trying to set a new date.

Talks between political directors of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany were planned for Monday, and had been expected to take place in Brussels.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported that Ahmadinejad called French President Nicolas Sarkozy "young and inexperienced" in an acrimonious and threatening letter.

Sarkozy's spokesman, David Martinon, confirmed the French president received a letter from Ahmadinejad on Monday.

Martinon said he had not read the letter and could not confirm Le Monde's description of its contents, but he had been told that the note "adds nothing to the position already expressed many times by the Iranian authorities."

In his six months as president, Sarkozy has toughened France's stance on the issue, pushing for more sanctions against Tehran and warning of the risk of war if diplomacy fails.

Le Monde cited unnamed diplomats as saying that Ahmadinejad's letter to Sarkozy contained "veiled threats." He also offered his counsel to the French leader, whom he called inexperienced, the newspaper added.

Ahmadinejad also said that a French drive for European sanctions targeting Tehran is bound to fail because neither Germany nor Italy will follow France's lead, Le Monde reported.

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