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Iran Denies Weapons Programs, Citing Religious Prohibition - 2003-06-08

In its strongest rejection of charges it is developing nuclear weapons, Iran's foreign minister said the use of atomic, chemical or biological arms is forbidden by Islam.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told Iran's parliament that the government considers using biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as something that is strictly prohibited by Islam (haram). But he did not mention whether a fatwa, or religious edict, had been issued on the subject.

Mr. Kharazi told the lawmakers that Iran has no nuclear-weapons program. Instead, he said, Iran is using nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes. He added that Iran had no intention of giving up its peaceful atomic program.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived Saturday in Tehran. The agency recently found that Iran has violated the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by failing to comply with nuclear-weapons safeguards. But it says that the Islamic republic is taking steps to correct the problem.

American officials describe the findings as deeply troubling and a cause for world alarm. They accuse Iran of using civil atomic-energy programs as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.

But the head of Iran's atomic agency, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, has dismissed the report, saying it dates back to information that is 12 years old. He says the findings have nothing to do with the organization's current activities.

Iran has come under growing pressure to sign an additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that would allow International Atomic Energy Agency experts to carry out surprise inspections of even undeclared sites.

But Foreign Minister Kharazi says Washington should drop its sanctions against Iran and not prevent other countries from transferring nuclear technology before Iran can sign the protocol.