Tue, Jan 18, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Iran insists that it has no nuclear weapons program

AP , Tehran

Iran said that environmental samples taken from a military complex this weekend by UN nuclear inspectors will prove that the country's atomic program is for peaceful purposes and not making weapons, as the US alleges.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency took samples from landscaped areas of the huge Parchin complex, which Washington believes may be involved in nuclear weapons research.

"We know what the result will be. Since we have never done any illegal activity, definitely the result will prove our declarations," Asefi told reporters.

The UN nuclear watchdog had been pressing Tehran for months to be allowed to inspect the Tehran-area complex, long used to research ammunition, missiles and high explosives.

The US alleged that the Iranians may be testing high-explosive components for a nuclear weapon, as a dry run for how a bomb with fissile material would work.

President George W. Bush's communications director, Dan Bartlett, told CNN's Late Edition "No president at any juncture in history has ever taken military options off the table. But what President Bush has shown [is] that he believes we can emphasize the diplomatic initiatives that are under way right now." Bush has accused Iran of being part of an "axis of evil."

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh said Bush and his national security advisers had been "conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer" for the purpose of gathering intelligence and targeting information. Hersh wrote that he had repeatedly been told by intelligence and military officials, on condition of anonymity that, "the next strategic target was Iran."

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