VIENNA: Iran denied Wednesday that it was seeking a nuclear weapon as an “insurance policy”, as suggested by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.
“If you quoted him right, he is absolutely wrong,” Iran’s envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters when asked to respond to comments made by ElBaradei in a BBC interview.
ElBaradei told the British broadcaster he believed that for Iran securing a nuclear weapon was “the road to get that recognition and power and prestige.”
“My gut feeling (is) that Iran definitely would like to have the technology… that would enable it to have nuclear weapon,” ElBaradei said.
“If they decide to do so, (it would be) to send a message to the rest of the world that ‘yes, don’t mess up with us, we can have (a) nuclear weapon if we want to,” ElBaradei said.
“But the ultimate aim of Iran as I understand it is they want to be recognised as a major power in the Middle East, and they are, and this is to them the road to get that recognition to power and prestige.”
Iranian ambassador Soltanieh rejected the comments.
“We don’t have any intention of having a nuclear weapon at all. A nuclear weapon is not in our defence doctrine,” he said.
“We do not consider a nuclear weapon (to be) any advantage. We consider it as vulnerability for us. We never had this and we will never have nuclear weapon.”
Tehran was simply seeking to have nuclear technology, “particularly enrichment for our peaceful purposes. That is our policy. This is the policy of Iran,” Soltanieh said.
Then, in what was clearly a slip of the tongue, Soltanieh said that “the whole Iranian nation are united … on (the) inalienable right of (having) nuclear weapon.”
Subsequently asked to clarify that remark, Soltanieh insisted that he had not meant to say “nuclear weapon.”
“I said our peaceful uses of nuclear energy — and of course our condemnation of nuclear weapons,” he said.
He also said: “We will not deprive our great nation from benefitting from peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”
According to the IAEA’s latest report on Iran, the Islamic republic is still defying the UN Security Council and has amassed 1,339 kilogrammes (2,946 pounds) of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6).
Analysts say between 1,000 and 1,700 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium would be needed to make enough highly-enriched uranium for a single atomic bomb.
The UN Security Council has ordered Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities until the IAEA has been able to verify the exact nature of Tehran’s programme amid fears from Western powers that it wants to build an atomic bomb.
But Tehran has ignored such calls, insisting it wants to produce civilian nuclear energy.”
The Iran dossier topped the agenda on the third day of this week’s meeting of the IAEA’s 35-member board.
ElBaradei addressed Iran directly, saying Tehran had created a “confidence deficit” by being secretive about its nuclear activities in the past, according to a diplomat who was at the meeting.
The IAEA chief urged Iran to take advantage of “the new air, the new approach coming from Washington.”
The watchdog has been investigating Iran for six years, but has not been able to say, so far, whether the activities are entirely peaceful as Tehran claims.
ElBaradei insisted the issue should not be allowed to drag on.
“We cannot continue for 20 years to deal with these issues,” he said.
“This does not really help us. Not only us, the perception of the non-proliferation regime as a whole.”
The only way forward, ElBaradei said, was “to engage in a meaningful dialogue.”