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Iranian Official Denies Nuclear Weapons Claims - 2003-09-25


Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has again denied Wednesday that his country his trying to develop nuclear weapons. Mr. Kharrazi says developing a nuclear program is Iran's legal right. He says it is a matter of national pride. But the Iranian foreign minister contends that Iran is abiding by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in its pursuit of nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons.

"You know, it is a matter of national pride to have this capacity, to have this technology, especially when it is developed domestically, it becomes a matter of national pride," said Mr. Kharrazi. "This does not mean that producing weapons would be on our agenda. The capability is the important thing."

The Iranian foreign minister accused the Bush administration of pressuring the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency to pass a strong resolution last week. The measure calls on Iran to allow the U.N. agency to carry out more intrusive inspections. But Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that U.N. inspectors can no longer take environmental samples and visit non-nuclear sites.

The IAEA set an October 31 deadline to prove that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. The United States believes that Iran is hiding efforts to build a nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Kharrazi is in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly debate. He made his remarks during a summit sponsored by the independent Eurasia Group, the United Nations Association and the United Nations Development Program.

Mr. Kharrazi was also critical of the U.S. presence in Iraq. He said it is threatening the entire region, undermining the moderation in the Muslim world and encouraging terrorism.