Iran admits keeping nuclear program secret
Updated: 2005-03-07 08:49
Iran confirmed Sunday that it initially developed its nuclear program in
secret, going to the black market for material, and blaming its discretion on
the U.S. sanctions and European restrictions that denied Iran access to advanced
civilian nuclear technology.
Iran now openly admits that it has already achieved proficiency in the full
range of activities involved in enriching uranium ¡ª a technology that can be
used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors or an atomic bomb.
Washington has accused Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a
cover to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is
merely geared towards generating electricity.
"True. There was secrecy," former president
Hashemi Rafsanjani said Sunday. "But secrecy was necessary to buy equipment for
a peaceful nuclear program."
Former Iranian president Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani, right, talks with Secretary of Supreme National
Security Council and Iran's top
nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, as they attend in closing ceremony of a
two-day international conference on nuclear technologies and sustainable
development in the Iranian capital, Tehran, Sunday March, 6, 2005.
"If sanctions had not been imposed on us, we would have declared everything
publicly, but we had problems buying metal. Nobody sold us anything in the
market," he said.
Rafsanjani was speaking at the closing session of a two-day international
conference on nuclear technology in Tehran, attended by more than 50
international nuclear scientists.
President from 1989-97, Rafsanjani also chairs the Expediency Council, a
powerful body that arbitrates between the parliament and another council that
vets legislation. He is believed to have a great influence over Iran's nuclear
Since last year Iran has publicly acknowledged that it once bought nuclear
equipment from middlemen in south Asia, lending credence to reports that Abdul
Qadeer Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, was one of the suppliers.
Rafsanjani said Iran resorted to the black market because was political
"injustice" by the U.S. and Europe.
He said Washington and the Europeans had approved the building of 20 nuclear
power plants in Iran and provide advanced nuclear technology when Tehran was
under the pro-Western shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the 1970s. But they reversed
their positions following the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the Shah and
brought the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power.
"If the Shah is in Iran, you would give him nuclear technology, but if Imam
(Khomeini) is in Iran, you can't do that ... the history of nuclear energy in
Iran is a lesson in contradictions in Western policy towards Iran," he said.
But Rafsanjani said Iran has been very transparent since 2002 when aspects of
its nuclear activities were revealed and that it has cooperated with the
International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to dispel
suspicions that it was seeking nuclear weapons.
He said Iran would never agree to a permanent halt on enriching uranium, a
technology he says Tehran is entitled to under the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Iran suspended its uranium enrichment activities last year to create
confidence and avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions. But Tehran says
maintaining the voluntary freeze depends on progress in ongoing talks with
Britain, Germany and France, who are negotiating on behalf of the European
"Definitely we can't stop our nuclear program and won't stop it. You can't
take technology away from a country already possessing it," Rafsanjani said.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the National Security and Foreign Policy
committee of the Iranian parliament, told the conference that Parliament would
not approve additional protocol to the NPT if the Europeans insist Iran turn its
temporary suspension of uranium enrichment-related activities into a permanent
Under the additional protocol, Iran will have to allow visits by IAEA
inspectors to its nuclear facilities at short notice.
Iran has agreed, but the protocol has to be approved by parliament before it
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, told the conference that
European demands for a permanent freeze went against accords already signed by
Iran and the three key European nations.
"Insisting on cessation kills the process of negotiations," he