TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s supreme leader insisted Friday 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 worshippers 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, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said. He refused to comment on the agenda or chances of success. Two previous negotiating rounds in Vienna, Austria, ended without agreement.

The three European powers have offered Iran a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology – including a light-water research reactor – 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 U.N. 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.

Tehran suspended uranium enrichment last year but has refused to stop other related activities such as building centrifuges.

Khamenei denounced nuclear weapons and accused America of seeking to hamper Iran’s technological progress.

“Production, stockpiling and using nuclear weapons are objectionable … the argument is not nuclear weapons. They (Americans) know it themselves. They are unhappy with Iran’s progress. That’s the issue,” he said.

Khamenei has rejected a long-term suspension of uranium enrichment and threatened that Iranian diplomats will withdraw from talks with European negotiators if they insist on that. Iranian television reported Friday that Europeans have shown flexibility and were no longer calling for an indefinite suspension.

The supreme leader said Iran was one of about 10 countries possessing technology to produce nuclear fuel. Iran says it already has obtained technology to master the whole nuclear fuel process, from mining uranium ore to enriching uranium.

Uranium enriched to a low level can be used to produce nuclear fuel, but if enriched further it can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran is not prohibited from enriching uranium under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but faces growing international pressure to suspend such activities as a good-faith gesture.

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