Iran will not discuss its "absolute rights" to nuclear technology, notably the enrichment of uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a televised address.
Referring to an announcement that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will deliver to Tehran a new proposal for ending the nuclear standoff, Ahmadinejad said: "We will wait to see these proposals before taking a decision that is in our national interests.
"But we say to them that nuclear technology, particularly the production of nuclear fuel, is part of our absolute rights, and we will not discuss these rights with anyone," he said in a speech at the mausoleum of Iran's revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
According to Ahmadinejad, "negotiating our absolute right would be like accepting to negotiate on our independence. We will not negotiate our independence with anyone."
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday played down comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declaring that Iran's right to nuclear technology is not negotiable.
"My understanding is the presentation of EU three, and the United States and Russia and China has not yet been made to them specifically," Rumsfeld said.
"So clearly they are not in a position to respond until such time as they have had an opportunity to see what the proposal is," he said.
Rumsfeld spoke to reporters here after meeting with Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of an international security conference.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on Thursday agreed to present Tehran with a package of incentives and the prospect of fresh multilateral talks on the condition that Iran first suspends uranium enrichment.
That activity is at the centre of fears the country could make nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only wants to make reactor fuel -- and not bombs -- and that enrichment is a right enshrined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Solana is expected in Tehran in the coming days to formally hand over the offer. In Brussels, Solana's spokeswoman confirmed plans for a visit to Tehran, but said the timing had yet to be fixed.
But if Iran rejects the proposal it faces the risk of tough Security Council action -- including possible sanctions.
"On the one hand, they say they want to negotiate, and on the other hand they make threats," Ahmadinejad complained, saying that any future talks had to be "without conditions."
But he also asserted that the Islamic regime would carefully look at the proposal before passing judgement.
"We will not judge their proposals in advance. We will wait and see what their attitude is," he said in the speech, part of events marking the anniversary of Khomeini's death in 1989.
Ahmadinejad's speech was greeted with the habitual chants of "Death to America", "Death to Israel" and "nuclear energy is our absolute right."
The hardline president also revealed that in a telephone conversation earlier Saturday with UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan, he had been asked "to examine the proposals and not act hastily."
"I said that we will not act hastily and that we will examine the proposals," he said, adding that he had also agreed with Annan not to make the contents of the proposals public.
The United States has insisted that Iran freeze its sensitive atomic activities before negotiations.
In Kuwait, the top US Middle East envoy, David Welch, called on Iran to "make the right choice".
"We want to see the success of the diplomatic avenue ... We are not hungry to see the alternative ... We have no thirst for a military option," the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs said.
Military action "is not a good idea, especially for the Iranians. We hope they make the right choice, so we are left with the positive track and not the negative track," Welch told a news conference.
Vatican said the crisis must be resolved "by diplomacy" and that every effort should be made to reach a negotiated solution.
"The current difficulties can and must be resolved by diplomacy, using all means that diplomats have at their disposal," spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, stressing the need for "open and constructive dialogue" that considered "the honour and sensitivity of each country".
"In that way, we will be able to reach an agreement," he said.
US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice said Friday that Iran had only weeks to respond to the proposal.
Crucially, the US has also promised to join the talks if Iran agrees -- paving the way for what could be the most substantive talks between the two arch-enemies since they severed diplomatic ties 26 years ago.