In an interview yesterday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei claimed he had a “gut feeling” that Iran wanted to have nuclear weapons technology “to send a message to their neighbors, to the rest of the world: Don’t mess with us.” ElBaradei had reportedly made similar comments in the past.
Asked about comments, Iran’s IAEA Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh insisted that the Iranian government has no interest in nuclear weapons technology, saying it was not part of their defense doctrine.
The Iranian government is poised to open the Bushehr nuclear energy plant at some point in the near future, and insists that its research is entirely for civilian energy production. The IAEA has repeatedly verified that Iran’s domestic uranium enrichment program is only enriching to the low levels needed for nuclear power production and that no nuclear materials have been diverted for any other purposes.
Still, Western officials have cited suspicions of a secret program that has somehow totally escaped the notice of the IAEA, and is intended to produce nuclear weapons. The Shi’ite government of Iran has rejected such allegations, and in 2003 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa declaring that all weapons of mass destruction were absolutely forbidden.