Iranian FM denies Tehran sought nuclear weapons
ROME (AFP) Feb 12, 2004
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi insisted on Thursday that Tehran had a "legitimate right" to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but denied it had any intention to develop nuclear weapons.

Kharazi, on a two-day visit to Rome, was responding to questions from reporters after a senior US official alleged Iran was pursuing a programme to make nuclear weapons.

"We have decided to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," Kharazi told reporters.

"We insist on our legitimate right to have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," he said, adding that Iran would cooperate with attempts by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify compliance with international nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

The Iranian foreign minister was speaking at a function at a Catholic university in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Tehran and the Holy See.

He was responding to assertions by US Under Secretary of State John Bolton that there was "no doubt that Iran continues a nuclear programme".

"We'll be looking seriously at what to do about Iran," Bolton said in Berlin.

After talks late Thursday with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini, Kharazi reiterated his defence of Iran's nuclear aspirations.

"From the beginning, Iran decided to collaborate with the IAEA inspectors and we will continue to do so," he told reporters in a brief statement after the meeting flanked by Frattini.

"Everything we want to do has peaceful objectives. Our nuclear technology has no military motive and we have signed a protocol, and even though it has not yet been discussed in parliament, we are respecting the accords.

"It is clear that we expect our interlocutors to respect their commitments. These relationships will bear fruit when the moves are reciprocated," he said, without elaborating. Both officials declined to be questioned.

Kharazi said that for the Iranian government "nuclear know-how is very important".

"We want to create a peaceful nuclear industry and we want to bring our country into the international market for the production of nuclear fuel."

Frattini said he had raised the nuclear issue in his talks with the Iranian.

"We hope that Iran will have full respect and transparency in their dealings with the inspectors," he said.

On Iran's upcoming elections, Frattini said he had expressed the hope that "the elections can go ahead in a full and transparent manner and furthermore, that the level of voter turnout will be adequate and up to international standards."

Kharazi's response to that was blunt: "I told him that for us, the elections are an internal matter".