Denies Nuclear Purchases for Weapons
February 24, 2004
Teheran, Iran - Iran publicly acknowledged for the first time that it
once bought nuclear equipment from middlemen on the Asian subcontinent,
lending credence to a recent report that detailed black-market nuclear
deals between a Pakistan, Iran and Libya.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi repeated his country's claims
that its efforts to acquire nuclear technology were strictly energy-related
and it never intended for weapons development.
"We purchased some (nuclear) parts from some dealers, but we don't
know what was the source or which country they came from," Asefi
said." It happened that some of the dealers were from some subcontinent
Asefi said Iran had already told the International Atomic Energy Agency,
the U.N. nuclear watchdog, that it had bought some equipment. But because
it was working through middlemen, it didn't know from whom.
"We have said from the beginning that we acquired some equipment
from some dealers. We haven't mentioned any specific scientist or government
organization," Asefi said.
Diplomats say Iran has privately told the IAEA that it bought centrifuge
parts from middlemen.
Recently, U.N. nuclear
agency inspectors uncovered evidence of previously undisclosed nuclear
experiments in Iran. IAEA inspectors in Iran have found traces of polonium,
a radioactive element that can help trigger a nuclear chain reaction.
However, Polonium also can be used to generate electricity.
The report said that
Iran never mentioned working with polonium in past declarations of its
nuclear activities. Also, the report to the IAEA's 35-nation board of
governors said the agency found traces of polonium last September. It
said the element "could be used for military purposes ... specifically
as a neutron initiator in some designs of nuclear weapons."
The revelation was
likely to hurt Iran's efforts to persuade the world that its nuclear program
is peaceful and geared only to generating electricity.
U.S. State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was concerned that Iran
continues to withhold information.
have divulged some parts of that program, but they still have a long way
to go," Boucher said in Washington. "And it's not clear to us
at this point that Iran has made a strategic decision to abandon its efforts
at nuclear weapons production."
The IAEA board
convenes next month to reassess the country's nuclear threat.