TEHRAN -- Iran's supreme leader said yesterday that his country was not seeking nuclear weapons, as Iranian diplomats met with European officials in Paris in new talks aimed at finding a compromise over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, said American accusations that Iran is developing weapons were aimed at preventing Iran's technological progress.
''They accuse us of seeking nuclear weapons. No sir. We are not thinking of building atomic weapons," Khamenei told tens of thousands of worshipers in his prayer sermon.
''Our nuclear weapon is this nation, is our youth. A system that has so many devoted youth and a nation united doesn't need nuclear weapons," Khamenei said.
Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful and geared solely toward generating electricity. The United States, pointing to Iran's vast oil reserves, contends it is running a covert nuclear weapons program.
Officials from Iran, Britain, Germany, and France began their talks at an undisclosed location in Paris, said Herve Ladsous, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry. He refused to comment on the agenda or chances of success. Two previous negotiating rounds in Vienna ended without agreement.
The three European powers have offered Iran a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology in return for assurances that the country will indefinitely stop uranium enrichment, a technology that can produce nuclear fuel or atomic weapons.
The Europeans have warned Iran that they will back Washington's threat to refer the Islamic republic to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions unless it gives up all uranium enrichment activities before a Nov. 25 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.