In an interview broadcast on the BBC Wednesday, Mohamed ElBaradei said it is his "gut feeling" that Iran wants the technology to send a message that it is not to be, in his words, "messed with."
He said he believes Iran's ultimate aim is to be recognized as a major power in the Middle East.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters ElBaradei is wrong and that Iran has no intention of ever having a nuclear weapon.
He said Iran does not consider a nuclear weapon an advantage and repeated the country's claim that it is pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The ambassador spoke in Vienna, where the IAEA Board of Governors is meeting this week.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed several sets of sanctions on Iran to try to get it to stop its uranium enrichment program.
Meanwhile in Moscow Wednesday, the presidents of Russia and China, Dmitri Medvedev and Hu Jintao, called for a diplomatic resolution to tensions over Iran's nuclear activities.
The Russian and Chinese leaders stressed the need to restore the international community's trust in what they called the "peaceful nature" of Iran's nuclear program and said the situation can only be settled in political and diplomatic ways.
Earlier this week, ElBaradei urged Iran to cooperate with nuclear inspectors and accept an offer to engage in dialogue with the United States.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.