updated 5/2/2007 1:41:16 PM ET 2007-05-02T17:41:16

A former Iranian nuclear negotiator was arrested on an unspecified security charge, the state news agency reported Wednesday, as the country’s hard-line president said Iran would not retreat “even an iota” from its pursuit of nuclear technology.

Citing an “unofficial informed source,” IRNA said that Hossein Mousavian was arrested in Tehran on Monday. He was a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiator team until 2005, and also served as Iran’s ambassador to Germany in late 1990s and early 2000s.

Mousavian was also known as a close ally of former influential President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, defeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 elections. Ahmadinejad replaced the complete Iranian negotiating team, including Mousavian, when he assumed power two years ago.

There was no official word on what the specific charge against Mousavian entailed. Usually, such charges in Iran range from violating national interests, state security interests, to treason, and carry up to life imprisonment. The cases are heard before Iran’s Revolutionary Courts.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad said the Iranian nation would resist attempts to curtail its rights in developing nuclear technology for peaceful, electricity-generating purposes, and would “cut off hands of invaders” if it were attacked.

President holds fast to nuclear ambitions
“Our nation will not give up its right even an iota,” the president told a crowd in Kerman, 650 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran. “In the important nuclear issue, implementation of justice is the demand of Iranian nation. Our nation says, ’law for everyone, right for everyone.”’

Ahmadinejad’s comment came ahead of another U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran — this one in late May — to halt its uranium enrichment program or face more punishment.

The council first imposed limited sanctions in December, then strengthened them because of Iran’s refusal to suspend enrichment and meet a first 60-day deadline for this.

The enrichment process can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or — if taken to a higher degree — the material for atomic bombs.

Earlier in April, Ahmadinejad said additional U.N. sanctions would only prompt Iran to step up its nuclear development.

The U.N.’s latest sanctions ban Iranian arms exports and have frozen the assets of 28 individuals and companies involved in Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs. Iran has rejected the sanctions and announced a partial suspension of cooperation with the IAEA.

Iran also in April said it had begun operating 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz facility — nearly 10 times the previously known number. The United States, Britain, France and others criticized the announcement, but experts expressed skepticism about Iran’s claims.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.

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