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Iranian diplomat denies nuclear weapons program

Mohammed Javad Zarif
Mohammed Javad Zarif

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(CNN) -- The United States says it has evidence Iran has secretly been constructing large nuclear facilities -- sites that could possibly be used to make nuclear weapons and that the International Atomic Energy Agency has not been able to visit. But Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to United Nations, told CNN on Thursday that his country has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. A transcript of that interview follows.

CNN: Is Iran planning a nuclear weapons program?

ZARIF: No. Absolutely not. Iran is a member of the Non Proliferation Treaty. We have safeguard agreements with the IAEA. Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction do not have a place in our defense doctrine. We have stated that clearly. And we have shown it.

We've had cooperation with various multilateral organizations dealing with weapons of mass destruction. And that is why I can categorically tell you that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

However, we do have a right to have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. And that we have asserted very forcefully. And we will continue to carry out our research and our activities in the area of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

And I believe the same NPT which bars states from developing nuclear weapons also bars other states from [...] other states that are developing other peaceful nuclear programs.

CNN: What can you tell us about these two facilities?

ZARIF: Well, our facilities, the ones that have already been constructed, the ones that are under construction, have been very transparent. It's not a big deal that the U.S. has satellite photos. Nuclear facilities are nothing that could be hidden. However, according to IAEA regulations and safeguard agreements that we have with the IAEA, there is a certain time limit where you have to bring your facilities to the attention of the IAEA. We have always informed IAEA in advance of that time limit and we have informed them about facilities that we have.

The director general of IAEA, Mr. [Mohamed] El Baradei, has been invited to come to Iran and we are working on a mutually convenient time, sometime early next year, maybe February, for him to come to Iran and in fact participate in an inauguration of one of our facilities that has just been completed.

CNN: Where is that, sir?

ZARIF: That's in Esfahan.

CNN: What about these two facilities, though? Will IAEA inspectors be permitted to inspect these two sites?

ZARIF: As I said, about 180 days before the construction is finished, we are obliged to inform the IAEA and allow the IAEA to visit all of our sites. We have always done that very much ahead of time and that is what we will continue to do.

CNN: What are these two sites?

ZARIF: Well, I have no information about these two particular sites but as I said, the general policy is to have access by the IAEA to every site we have in Iran because we follow a transparent policy.

It is a source of concern for us that the United States continues to press all these allegations against Iran while it follows a double standard policy allowing others to develop nuclear weapons.

We believe there should be a very serious non-proliferation and counter-proliferation activity throughout the world. We will be a very serious partner in that approach because we've been victim of another weapon of mass destruction.

And unfortunately these days, the revelations that are coming out, the United States either acquiesced or had an active part in producing those weapons of mass destruction that you now want to destroy.

I believe it is important for the United States, once and for all, to follow a serious policy on nuclear weapons and prevent the development anywhere in the world and we will certainly participate in that.

CNN: Is Iran pursing a full fuel cycle program in the nuclear field?

ZARIF: We are pursuing a fuel cycle program that is necessary to fuel our current project. It is a peaceful fuel cycle program because the grade that is necessary for peaceful purposes and the grade that would be useful for military purposes are so far apart that the facilities we are constructing would simply be able to provide the fuel that would be necessary for our own nuclear energy facilities.

CNN: I mean, I must tell you, sir, that talking to some U.S. officials they don't agree with that assessment. They look at these facilities and in the case of Natanz, it's a rather large facility which the U.S. officials I've talked to believe it's a uranium enrichment facility, among other things. They say the infrastructure is just too large for a small civilian peaceful program.

ZARIF: Well, there's only one way to find out and that is for IAEA and the safeguard agreements we have with the IAEA to look into it.

You can rest assured that the United States does not want Iran to have any kind of nuclear program and that is a violation of U.S. commitments under international law. The United States knows for a fact that the Bushehr facility is a facility under IAEA safeguards. There are more IAEA technicians, monitors and experts in Bushehr than there are in any other facility in the world. And yet the United States imposes pressure on every country to prevent us from developing that facility. So for me the United States is not a reliable source of information because they don't want Iran to have nuclear technology period.

CNN: We have been told that the IAEA had a trip scheduled with a day-by-day schedule already agreed upon that should be occurring now and that they had requested to go to, among other places, the two sites that I'm talking about. But that trip has apparently been put off by the Iranian side. Do you know anything about that?

ZARIF: My information is that there are IAEA experts and technicians today in Iran in various facilities including in the Esfahan facility I mentioned and of course in Bushehr there have always been IAEA technicians and experts.

We extended an invitation about a month ago to the director general of IAEA, Mr. El Baradei, to visit Iran and as I said there was no time agreed. We have proposed some time in February and we are trying to work out the details with him and his office.

CNN: I have to come back to these two facilities, though, that you say you don't know any detailed information about. Do you know, are they part of the nuclear program of Iran. Would that explain why so many experts think they are?

ZARIF: Well, I can tell you that we have a nuclear power program. And it is interesting for you and some of your viewers to know that originally in 1974, it was the United States experts from Stanford University who suggested that Iran needed a nuclear energy program and without a nuclear energy program Iran's energy resources would not be sufficient for its development. And this program, according to the decisions of the Iranian government, is supposed to produce a large part of our energy requirements in the next 20 to 25 years. And that is why it will not be limited to the Bushehr facility that is under construction right now. We will have other facilities in Iran but the point is all of these facilities will be pursuing nuclear technology and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. And that is a commitment we have undertaken through our participation in NPT and through becoming an NPT member.

CNN: Another thing that I'd like to give you a chance to respond to is that some US officials allege that another reason they don't have full faith in Iran on WMD issues is it's cooperation with North Korea on missile technology.

ZARIF: We have to clarify one point here, there is no international regulation that has been universally agreed that has been done under the United Nations on the control of missile technology. There are a number of countries who have a technology control regimen with regard to the missiles but Iran in fact proposed with very difficult time for the U.S. to accept this proposal that the United Nations in fact get involved with the issue of missiles. To investigate various aspects of the missiles. And we've had the working group here in the United Nations deal with that on our proposal, a proposal that was approved by the General Assembly while the U.S. either abstaining or voting against. This is how we believe this can be done. We need universal mechanisms on missile technology because missiles are an important part of defense requirements of various countries and we need to look at them from a multi-disciplinary perspective and this is what we have proposed and the U.N. has been following.

CNN: Thank you, ambassador. Just in closing, is there anything that you haven't had a chance to say that perhaps you should and I should remind you that the story will have these satellite pictures on it and the assertions by U.S. officials on it.

ZARIF: It is important to note that it is not any secret that Iran has a peaceful nuclear program. We believe it is our right, we assert it very forcefully. There is nothing hidden about it. Because if we wanted to have sort of a clandestine nuclear program, we wouldn't come out in public and stating it is our right and this is our policy to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

CNN: But you aren't able to say what these two facilities are and whether they are a part of that peaceful nuclear program.

ZARIF: I can certainly say that any facility that we have in Iran, including , I haven't seen your sat photographs, but including any satellite photographs of any facility you may have, if it is dealing with nuclear technology it is within the purview of our peaceful nuclear energy program. That I can say categorically.

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