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Iran's Rouhani says nuclear rights are 'red lines': media

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani takes questions from journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Lat
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani takes questions from journalists during a news conference in New York September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Lat

By Marcus George

DUBAI (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday Iran would not give up what it sees as its right to enrich uranium in nuclear negotiations and said the Islamic Republic would not bow to "threats" from anyone, Iranian media reported.

Following talks in Geneva that failed to clinch a deal to curb Tehran's nuclear program, Rouhani told lawmakers Iran had told its negotiating partners, "We will not answer to any threat, sanction, humiliation or discrimination."

He did not elaborate on his reference to threats against Iran, but Tehran's arch-foe Israel spoke out strongly against a proposed deal discussed at the Geneva talks.

Despite the failure of the talks on Saturday, Iran and six world powers said differences had narrowed - a softening that may worry Iranian hardliners - and they would resume negotiations in 10 days to try to end the decade-old standoff.

"The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority," he said in a speech at the National Assembly, Iran's student news agency (ISNA) said.

"For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed. National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and (uranium) enrichment in Iran," he said.

Rouhani, who was elected in June, is the chief architect of Iran's diplomatic drive for a nuclear deal to alleviate harsh economic sanctions on its oil and banking industries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday denounced the contours of an accord leaked to the media, saying Tehran would be getting "the deal of the century" if world powers carried out proposals to grant Iran temporary respite from sanctions.

Israel, which is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal and regards Iran as a mortal threat, has repeatedly suggested it may take military action against Tehran if it does not mothball its entire nuclear program.

Iran dismisses such demands, citing a sovereign right to a nuclear energy industry, and most diplomats concede that, as Tehran has expanded its nuclear capacity exponentially since 2006, the time for demanding a total shutdown has passed.

The Islamic Republic says its activities are purely peaceful and negotiators say they are ready to take the steps necessary for such an agreement if their nuclear "rights are recognized" and world powers reciprocate by easing sanctions.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said senior political officials from Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany would meet again on November 20 to work on a deal.

But clear divisions emerged among the U.S. and European allies on the final day of the Geneva talks as France hinted that the proposal under discussion did not sufficiently neutralize the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

U.s. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that an agreement could be within reach, but warned Tehran that Washington's desire for a diplomatic solution was not infinite, saying the window for diplomacy "does not stay open indefinitely".

Like Israel, Saudi Arabia has expressed concerns to Washington about the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the Saudis' main rival in the region, as well as Tehran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's 2-1/2-year civil war.

(Reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Louise Ireland and William Maclean)

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