TEHRAN, 16 September 2003 — Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said yesterday Iran was determined to continue its policy of developing nuclear energy but had no intention of building atomic bombs. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog last week gave Tehran until Oct. 31 to prove its nuclear aims were peaceful. Washington says Iran’s atomic energy program is a covert bid to join the small group of nations with nuclear arms.
But in a speech to Revolutionary Guards commanders in Tehran yesterday, Khatami accused Washington of “making a fuss without any cause”. “I’m saying again that not only are we not aiming to produce weapons of mass destruction, but we want the region and the world to be free of weapons of mass destruction,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
“We don’t need atomic bombs, and based on our religious teaching we will not pursue them. But at the same time we want to be strong, and being strong means having knowledge and technology.” US officials have questioned why Iran, with plentiful oil and gas reserves would want to develop an expensive nuclear energy program.
Meanwhile, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, stormed out of an IAEA board session on Friday after a tough, US-backed resolution giving Tehran until Oct. 31 to give full details of its nuclear plans. Over the weekend, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine published an interview with Salehi in which he said Tehran could leave the IAEA and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization told delegates from the IAEA’s 136 member countries that Tehran had no intentions of withdrawing from the 1968 pact. “Iran is fully committed to its NPT responsibilities, not only because of its contractual obligations, but also because of its religious and ethical considerations,” said Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also a vice president. Washington, which labeled Iran a member of an axis of evil with North Korea and pre-war Iraq, lobbied hard to get the tough IAEA resolution passed.
In another development yesterday, a British Embassy residential compound in Tehran has been fired at in the third shooting incident outside a British diplomatic facility in the Iranian capital this month, an embassy spokesman said yesterday. The diplomat, Andrew Greenstock, said two shots were fired at the main gate of the north Tehran compound at 6:10 p.m. (1340 GMT) Sunday, adding that nobody was injured in the shooting.
He said witnesses questioned after the shooting had seen two men on a motorbike fire the shots. The walled compound hit, situated on a busy road, is one of the embassy’s main residential facilities where a large proportion of diplomatic staff and their dependents are housed.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the incident. “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept and condemns such acts, and the Foreign Ministry, through the competent organs, will pursue this matter so that those responsible will be identified and dealt with by the judiciary,” spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told AFP.
The main embassy in the center of the city was hit by gunmen on Sept. 3, and Britain’s Foreign Office authorized the voluntary departure of non-essential members of staff and dependants. The embassy has since been carrying out “limited functions”.