Iran Denies Seeking Nukes

Iranian flag overlaid with fallout symbol. nukes nuclear weapons Iran
Iran on Thursday rejected reports that it was close to building an atomic bomb, insisting its nuclear program was locally developed merely to produce electricity.

"Allegations that Iran was working with other countries in order to attain nuclear technology are sheer lies," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Asefi was reacting to a report in Monday's Los Angeles Times that Iran "appears to be in the late stages of developing the capacity to build a nuclear bomb."

The Times said its three-month investigation found that Iran has been involved in a pattern of activity that has concealed weapons efforts from international inspectors.

Among its findings, the paper said a confidential French report concluded that, "Iran is surprisingly close to having enriched uranium or plutonium for a bomb."

The paper also reported that samples of uranium taken by arms inspectors in June tested positive for enrichment levels high enough to be consistent with an attempt to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran on Thursday denied those charges.

"Iran's nuclear technology has been developed by Iranian scientists and is just for civilian and peaceful use," Asefi was quoted as saying. He called the Times' report "irresponsible."

The United States has accused Iran of running a clandestine nuclear weapons program and wants the International Atomic Energy Agency to declare Tehran in violation of the nonproliferation treaty.

On Wednesday, Iran said it would not surrender its nuclear power-generating program, as U.N. experts held talks with Iranian officials aimed getting Tehran to allow unrestricted inspection of its nuclear facilities.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not give up nuclear technology as a basis for legitimate power, " state television quoted President Mohammad Khatami as saying.

Khatami said Iran had no desire for nuclear weapons the United States accuses it of seeking, "because we cannot use such weapons based on our Islamic and moral teachings."

A three-member legal team from the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, met Iranian government officials this week to discuss an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that would allow inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities without notice.

Khatami hinted Iran may sign the protocol "if the world recognizes" his country's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Iran has always said it would agree to unfettered inspections if it is granted access to advanced nuclear technology as provided for under the nonproliferation treaty. Tehran says Washington is keeping Iran from getting that technology.

Foreign officials told the Times the CIA has discussed plans for possible airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. The CIA would not confirm that claim.

Commenting on reports of Iranian nuclear efforts, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the government is "working with the IAEA to make sure that they do not continue on this course, which is unacceptable."

The Times reported that some analysts see Iran as little as two to three years away from building a bomb.

Among the allegations in the Times story, which were based on secret reports and interviews with intelligence sources, Iranian exiles and weapons experts, were:

  • That Iran has several weapons research laboratories at a plant disguised as a watch-making factory. It barred inspectors from seeing parts of that plant.
  • That Iran secretly imported 1.8 tons of nuclear material from China in 1991, and used some it to make uranium metal, which would only be useful for weapons production.
  • That Pakistan offered to sell nuclear weapons technology to Iran as early as 1989.
  • That so many North Korean scientists are working on nuclear projects in Iran that a resort has been reserved exclusively for their use.
  • That Iran has told Russia it wants to develop its own uranium fuel for a reactor Russia is building, a possible sign that Tehran intends to enrich the uranium to weapons grade.