Former senior lawmaker Ali Motahari says his Sunday remarks about Iran's intention to build nukes when it started its nuclear program were misinterpreted.
"It was said [in the interview] that there were several people in the beginning who believed that there was no problem with building [a nuclear] weapon to inspire awe in the enemy… but that using it was not permissible. This let the hypocrites to report the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities as [an attempt] to build bombs," a statement published Monday on Motahari's official website claimed.
Iranian officials always refer to the exiled Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) as 'hypocrites'.
The Islamic Republic has never pursued the policy or aimed at building a nuclear bomb as per Supreme Leader's view its production is religiously forbidden (haram), the statement further said.
In response to a question in an interview published Sunday about his assertion in the past that using a nuclear bomb was religiously banned (haram) -- but building one, as a deterrent, was not – Motahari said that Iran’s nuclear program had aimed to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent in its initial stages, but that the program was not properly kept secret, which led to its disclosure by the MEK.
All of Motahari's controversial remarks on the nuclear issue have now been removed from the text of the interview with Iran Student Correspondents Association (ISCA News). The text now only shows the sentence "The Supreme Leader believes that building nuclear weapons is completely impermissible."
A photo showing part of Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
The original text, however, left very little room for claiming "misrepresentation" of Motahari's remarks. Motahari had said that an Iranian bomb could have ensured "great deterrence" if it had been kept secret and tested as it was done by Pakistan. "Other countries take consideration of nuclear power so I believe that we should have followed through with what we had started," the original text had also quoted him as saying.
As proof of his claim, Motahari had argued that a country only aiming to have peaceful nuclear technology would begin with launching nuclear reactors, not an enrichment program. "Carrying out enrichment directly gives rise to suspicions that we aim at building a bomb," the original interview text said while stressing that Khamenei now believes that building a bomb is "totally haram".
Western governments and their allies allege that Iran's nuclear program aims at building nuclear weapons, but the Islamic Republic has always insisted that the program is solely for peaceful purposes including power generation.
Motahari's remarks caused quite a stir in the media, and he has been accused of making false claims. A website with links to Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Nour News, refuted Motahari's remarks within hours from the publication of the interview.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran's peaceful nuclear program has never had a military dimension and statements by unauthorized individuals in this regard are a result of their unfamiliarity with the matter or their particular political views," Nour News quoted an "informed source" as saying while the MEK on Sunday cited Motahari's remarks as proof of its revelation in August 2002 that Iran was running secret facilities for enrichment in Natanz and for production of heavy water in Arak.
This is not the first time Iranian officials mention earlier plans for building nuclear weapons. In his memoires, Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has said that Iran was considering building a nuclear bomb during the war with Iraq (1980-1988) but never followed it through. In a secret letter to then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1988 which later became public, Mohsen Rezaei, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), had said that Iran had to have "laser and nuclear weapons" to be able to deter Iraqi aggression.