President George Bush rejected a report by US state agencies which found no evidence that Iran was developing nuclear energy for military purposes

Iran is a country with 10000 years of written history and a 3000-year history of civilisation.

Iran is a country with 10000 years of written history and a 3000-year history of civilisation.

Part of this civilisation was crystallised in the Islamic revolution, which had its roots in the people's deep interest in Islam, which preaches peace and affection among human beings.

Iran's nuclear programme has been in the news. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the inception of Iran's nuclear programme. It was in 1957 that the US government signed a series of agreements with the then Iranian authorities on the launching of nuclear power reactors and Iran's gaining access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Later on more notes were added to the said agreements, while Canada, France and Germany also signed agreements with Iran on nuclear technology and related issues. An agreement was reached with Germany to construct Bushehr reactor; and at that time none of those countries told us "you have enough oil and gas reserves and therefore you don't need nuclear energy".

It was a logical decision taken before the Islamic revolution.

Of course, after the revolution in 1979 all the agreements were declared null and void. This laid the foundation for Iran's mistrust of the West. Germany leftBushehr and we turned to the Russians to complete the construction of the reactor.

Now 28 years later, the Bushehr reactor has not yet been put into operation. At least 95percent of its construction has been completed and is in the phase of fuel injection. Therefore, after the Islamic Revolution, the US and the West never tried to find out its cause. We tried to stand on our own feet and we embarked upon enriching uranium and heavy water projects.

This field needed advanced knowledge and sophisticated technology. Iran has become a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since signing the treaty in 1974; and has been committed to the safeguards of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Therefore, it is wrong to say Iran has embarked on secret activities. It is possible that some of the cases were not reported because of our lack of experience in this regard.But the IAEA has not announced any breach of law on our part. It has confirmed that Iran has announced all its activities and that so far there hasn't been any deviation towards military purposes.

In 2003, there was much hue and cry by certain countries that Iran intended to produce nuclear weapons and that they were concerned about Iran's intentions.

Since we were fully ready to cooperate with the agency, they asked us to suspend our activities, and we acted accordingly.

They asked us to sign and implement the additional protocol and we did voluntarily; while it had not yet been approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

We suspended our activities for two-and-a-half years and promoted our cooperation with the IAEA. We allowed 2400 days of inspection of our sites. We also opened our military sites as demanded by them.

They inspected the sites 27 times without finding anything abnormal. They then and announced that the agency was not in a position to declare Iran's unannounced cases.

The inspection process is lengthy. In the case of Japan, for instance, it took 40 years before it was announced that it had no unannounced cases. In March 2004, we offered our timetable. It took five months for them to consider it, but only to be told that it was not acceptable. They said they would offer their package.

In August 2005, the same process was repeated. In same year they offered their first package of incentives and demanded that we desist from acting on our nuclear rights in exchange for unimportant and in some cases insulting pledges, like better access to the Internet.

We promptly rejected that package, and came to realise that we could not fulfil our nuclear rights through negotiation with Europe. We are committed to NPT, and accordingly we enjoy certain rights.

But they issued three resolutions, two of which were in favour of economic embargoes against our country.

We are clear about the peaceful nature of our actions, yet to assure the rest of the world we announce we are ready to enter into partnerships with others. But we cannot suspend uranium enrichment, because it is our right to make use of this technology. Regarding concerns over military purposes, we are ready to negotiate with all parties to allay their fears.

lThis is an edited version of a recent address to the parliamentary portfolio committee on foreign affairs in Cape Town by the ambassador of Iran, Mohammad Ali Ghanezadeh.