Iran has the ability to produce nuclear weapons, but it does not intend to do so, Iran’s former foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran on Monday.
Speaking at the third Tehran Dialogue Forum, Kharrazi who is the head of a foreign policy outfit at Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office, referred to Iran’s “high-level” nuclear capabilities, but maintained that “we do not intend to produce an atomic bomb, because we do not regard it as a component of our security.”
Iran’s English-language media did not mention Kharrazi’s comments about the ability to build nuclear weapons, but semi-official Persian media covered it as headlines.
Kharrazi said that during his tenure as foreign minister (1997-2005) the European powers did not agree for Iran to have a few uranium enrichment centrifuges, but now Iran has a vast infrastructure to produce fissile material.
“With Iran’s resistance and the efforts of Iranian scientists, we now have 19,000 centrifuges working [to enrich uranium],” the former foreign minister said.
Kharrazi reiterated previous Iranian claims that the country’s ruler Khamenei is against the production of nuclear weapons because it will not bring security. He argued that if Iran becomes a nuclear weapons power, others in the region will start an “arms race and trying to produce nuclear weapons.”
While denying the intention to produce atomic bombs, Kharrazi said, “We are of course aware of the issue that having the nuclear technology in itself is a deterrent.”
Kharrazi then insisted that Iran is ready to return to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA, if the West also honors its commitments. “Related to recent negotiations, the issue of inspections and claims by the agency [IAEA] remain,” he said and expressed hope that these can be resolved.
Iran began violating the terms of the JCPOA after the United States pulled out of the agreement in 2018 and imposed economic sanctions. It now enriches uranium up to the 60-percent level, which is short step away from the 90-percent enrichment it would need to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran’s economic situation is fast deteriorating, with its currency losing 50 percent of its value in the past 15 months, and especially since protests began in September.
Negotiations to revive the JCPOA also reached an impasse in late August, and this is a negative factor impacting the economy, as lack of an agreement leads to general pessimism in the country.
The harsh and deadly suppression of protests in the past three months has led to another complication in the nuclear talks, as Western governments have become less willing to renew a deal that would provide tens of billions of dollars to a regime which has killed nearly 500 people and jailed around 20,000.