Nonaligned bloc backs Iran’s nuclear program

A statement drawn up by the 16-nation nonaligned bloc at the board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency "reaffirmed the basic and inalienable right" of all countries to develop, produce and use atomic energy "for peaceful purposes, without any discrimination and in conformity with their respective legal obligations."

The statement, made available to The Associated Press ahead of delivery when Iran comes up as an agenda item later in the week, was mostly a repetition of a communique issued last month at a meeting in Malaysia of the nonaligned bloc's foreign ministers.

Iran says it has a right to enrich uranium for purposes of generating electricity under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The United States and its allies assert the claim is a cover for attempts to develop a weapons program using highly enriched uranium in the core of nuclear warheads, the AP reports.

While the focus now is on negotiations with Iran, including new-found American willingness to join in multinational talks if Tehran agrees to freeze enrichment, the Bush administration has refused to unequivocally rule out military action should Tehran remain defiant.