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Islam Forbids Weapons of Mass Destruction,  says Iranian President

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has denied that his country ever sought to develop nuclear weapons. Speaking at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, the Iranian leader said that the Islamic religion forbids the use of weapons which kill indiscriminately.

The Iranian president criticized what he called the fanfare, hullabaloo and exaggeration which have surrounded his country's nuclear program. He said there is no truth to Western assertions that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

"We cannot go and seek a nuclear program because of our religious faith," said mr. Khatami. "I said, in one of my speeches to the leaders, that we cannot have nuclear weapons because in Islamic wars, in the rules of warfare, there are so many recommendations for the fair treatment of the enemy."

President Khatami said Islam forbids the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

In an effort to allay suspicion over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, he said the Iranian government has agreed to a series of actions. On Wednesday, the Iranian government formally announced that it would sign a document allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Iran agreed to allow the tougher inspections following an unprecedented visit to Tehran by the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany in October. Iran has also promised to end its uranium enrichment program, which can produce fuel for nuclear bombs.

The IAEA accused Iran of concealing aspects of its nuclear program for the last 18 years, and threatened to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council if Iran does not fulfill its new promises.

On Thursday, Mr. Khatami said Iran has nothing to hide.

"The Islam that I know does not allow the use of nuclear weapons," said Mr. Khatemi. "We cannot use and therefore we cannot go and manufacture. We have the right for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

In his speech to the World Council of Churches, President Khatami spoke of the importance of having a dialogue of civilizations. This was an idea he first proposed at the U.N. General Assembly in 1998. He stressed the importance of expanding dialogue among different religions, in particular between Islam and Christianity, as a means of ending the current atmosphere of hostility in the international community.