Iran says supreme leader's ban rules out nuclear weapons for Islamic Republic

A religious decree issued by Iran's supreme leader banning nuclear weapons is binding for the Iranian government, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, suggesting that the edict should end the debate over whether Tehran is pursuing atomic arms.

Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the West must understand the significance of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's edict for Iran: "There is nothing higher than the exalted supreme leader's fatwa to define the framework for our activities in the nuclear field."

"When the highest jurisprudent and authority in the country's leadership issues a fatwa, this will be binding for all of us to follow," he added.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, said last year that Tehran is not seeking atomic arms. He called possessing such weapons a "sin" as well as "useless, harmful and dangerous."

Washington and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its program is peaceful and geared towards generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to cancer patients.

Mehmanparast's comments Tuesday come a day ahead of a new round of talks in Tehran with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, over the nuclear program.

The ministry spokesman said Iran is ready to clear up any questions through a deal with the IAEA. "If there are any ambiguities or concerns, we are ready to clear these ambiguities. This can be done under a structured approach," he said.

But Mehmanparast also criticized the U.N. agency, saying that Tehran answered all its questions in the past, but instead of giving Iran a clean bill of health, the agency leveled new allegations on the basis of "alleged studies" provided by Iran's enemies.

Iran uses that term to refer to a dispute at Parchin, a military site southeast of Tehran, where the agency suspects Iran ran explosive tests needed to set off a nuclear charge.

Iran says the agency's suspicions are based on forged intelligence from the United States, Israel and others.

Mehmanparast said there has to be an end to such allegations if Iran can reach a deal with the U.N.

"Obligations of the other party must be clearly specified. If a claim is to be raised on a spot in Iran every day and (the U.N. agency) seeks to visit our military facilities under such a pretext ... this issue will be unending," he said.