Khatami: Iran Not Seeking to Make Nuclear Weapons

Published August 30, 2003

| Associated Press

Iran's president said his country is not seeking to make atomic weapons, but he insisted Saturday it has a right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Mohammad Khatami's (search) comments followed a meeting in Tehran with European Union (search) foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who urged Iran to clear up questions about its nuclear program and allow unfettered inspections of related sites.

Mohammed ElBaradei (search), chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), says traces of weapons-grade uranium have been found at a nuclear facility at Natanz in central Iran.

The United States accuses Iran of developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search). Iran insists its nuclear programs are for generating electricity.

"It's very important that Iran urgently clarifies the outstanding questions signaled in ElBaradei's report," Solana told reporters.

Khatami, whose reform-inclined government is locked in a power struggle with ruling hard-line clerics, acknowledged the international concern about the country's nuclear goals.

"Tehran considers international concerns about nuclear issues as justified, but we give assurances that nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense policies," Khatami said on state-run television.

"While Iran rejects the use of weapons of mass destruction from the Islamic and moral point of view, it considers it its right to acquire technology for the peaceful use of nuclear science."

Earlier Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi (search) said the equipment at the Natanz nuclear plant (search) had been contaminated with enriched uranium before Iran purchased it.

He also reiterated that Iran was ready to begin talks on signing an extension to the nuclear treaty that would strengthen international inspection powers.

Solana welcomed the announcement, saying it would deepen Iran's ties with Europe. He added, however, that Iran should not expect EU rewards for signing such a protocol.

The EU warned Iran last month that a trade deal could be jeopardized unless Tehran allows unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Solana said several EU members have written to Iran's government supporting its plans for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Kharrazi said the EU should not succumb to outside pressure regarding Iran's nuclear program and European countries must not let the IAEA's upcoming meeting become "politicized."

Iran's talks with the IAEA over additional protocols are likely to begin following two meetings next month of the U.N. atomic agency.

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