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. Iran not seeking nuclear bomb, but will defend itself: minister
NEW YORK (AFP) Sep 28, 2004
Iran is not trying to build a nuclear bomb, but it has developed long and medium-range missiles to defend itself against potential threats, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told CNN television on Tuesday.

Asked if Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons, Kharazi replied: "Not at all. We are against (a) nuclear bomb. And it's not part of our defense strategy."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on Tehran to immediately halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, a process that can make the explosive material for nuclear weapons.

Kharazi said Iran wants to promote a nuclear-free Middle East and he stressed that UN weapons inspectors had not found any nuclear weapon programs in Iran.

"Iran is quite transparent. All sights are under inspection," he said.

The United States claims Iran is hiding a covert weapons development program, and wants the IAEA to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Kharazi said Iran should not be referred to the UN Security Council "because there hasn't been a violation," but said Tehran has developed long- and medium-range missiles to defend its territory.

Iran's Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani said on Saturday the army had taken delivery of a new "strategic missile" but it is unclear if the weapon is the Shahab-3 medium-range missile, acquired by the Revolutionary Guards in July.

The Shahab-3 is believed to be based on a North Korean design and is thought to be capable of carrying a one-tonne warhead at least 1,300 kilometres (800 miles), well within range of Israel and US bases in the region.

"We have to be able to defend ourself," Kharazi said.

Asked what Tehran would do if Israel launched an air strike against the country's nuclear facilities, Kharazi replied: "We would be able to react. How we do react, I cannot tell you that."

The foreign minister said Iran had arrested "several Al-Qaeda" members, but did not detail how many alleged terrorists had been detained or what their names were.

He said they numbered in the "dozens" and that 14 "new elements" had been detained recently.

He said there was no reason to hand them over to Washington as they would be "judged and tried in Iranian courts."

Kharazi said Tehran would support a regional summit on Iraq and that Iran was not seeking to influence elections scheduled for Iraq in January.

"We are not going to influence any other nation. But what is important for us is to have a democracy, a representative government in Iraq in place."

"We hope that election would be held by the end of January so as to have that representative government in Iraq, which will be able to maintain security for itself," the minister added.

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