TEHRAN - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday his country would press on with its nuclear programme and was not afraid of pressure from the United States.
"The people and the officials are not scared of the political threats made by the powers in the service of oppression," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television during a meeting with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
"Iran will never stop its nuclear programme, that is our red line," he said in comments that coincided with Iran's agreement to suspend, but not halt, its controversial work on the nuclear fuel cycle.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said the suspension agreement with Britain, France and Germany -- designed to prevent the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from referring Iran to the UN Security Council -- "were carried out while respecting this red line".
EU negotiators had agreed with Iran in Paris on November 7 on a freeze of all Iranian enrichment activities as a confidence-building measure to answer US charges that Tehran was secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Enrichment involves spinning uranium gas in cascade arrangements of centrifuges to make what can be fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs.
Iran says it only wants to generate nuclear power, while the US and Israel openly allege the Islamic regime wants the bomb.
"The United States and the other powers know full well that Iran is not seeking to have a nuclear weapon, but their accusations are designed to make Iran give up nuclear technology," Khamenei was quoted as saying.
And he said the IAEA "would lose credibility if, in its judgements and positions, it is influenced by the United States and its allies".