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Iran minister denies nuke program

Kharrazi (right) with IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei
Kharrazi (right) with IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei

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TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Traces of highly enriched uranium found by inspectors at an Iranian nuclear plant were the result of contamination and not an indication that the country has a nuclear weapons program, Iran's foreign minister said.

"It is true that the inspectors have found traces of enriched uranium in Natanz's installations," Kamal Kharrazi, speaking on the sidelines of his visit to Japan, told CNN.

"But as matter of fact, that is because the components that we have imported from outside [have] been contaminated."

He said the International Atomic Energy Agency was still working to verify his claim.

"They are doing their best to find the source of this contamination and exactly that's the reason why they have said that nobody should rush to conclusion," Kharrazi said.

The U.N. nuclear agency Tuesday released its report on Iran's nuclear activity, noting that inspectors found particles at Natanz that contain a higher percentage of enriched uranium than is needed for a civilian power program.

The IAEA's report said the agency had not determined whether Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Kharrazi reiterated Iran's denial of a nuclear weapons program, and defended the country's right to use nuclear power for civilian use.

"We have the program to produce energy out of enriched uranium and this is legitimate right of Iran to have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, provided it is under the safeguard of IAEA," he said.

"We are ready to cooperate fully and closely with IAEA in order to make everyone sure that it is safe, it is peaceful, and it's not for production of nuclear weapons."

Enriched uranium traces were found at the controversial Natanz plant.
Enriched uranium traces were found at the controversial Natanz plant.

The United States has accused Iran of secretly developing a nuclear weapons program. But Iran insists the program is peaceful and aimed at producing 6,000 megawatts of electricity, an amount they said would be needed in the country in 20 years.

Iran has said it was willing to sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing IAEA inspectors to conduct snap inspections, but has yet to do so.

Iranian officials say they want guarantees that those inspections would not violate their sovereignty, and they want the right to receive nuclear technology from more developed nations in return.

Kharrazi said Iran had allowed inspectors to visit various nuclear sites and take environmental samples, although it is not obliged to do so.

"This is just for making more trust and confidence and certainly we are ready to cooperate more fully with IAEA," he said. "But before signing additional protocol certainly the ambiguities have to be removed and we have to engage in negotiations to make sure that our rights will be fulfilled as well and our dignities will be respected."

Iran has provided information and access to inspectors in slowly and incrementally at times, the IAEA inspectors concluded in the report, and "some of the information was in contrast to that previously provided by Iran." But they said Iran has demonstrated an increased degree of cooperation with inspectors.

In June, the IAEA's 35-nation governing board criticized Iran for failing to report some of its nuclear material and facilities, raising concerns in the international community -- particularly Washington -- about its nuclear ambitions.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said Iran has a "large and sophisticated" nuclear program, and he warned against "jumping to conclusions on the basis of partial knowledge."

"There are a number of scenarios which would explain why highly enriched uranium might be found in Iran," he said. "We need to examine every one of those scenarios to determine which is the most plausible."

-- CNN National Security Producer Pam Benson in Washington contributed to this report.


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