20 Feb 2010

Ayatollah denies Iran developing nuclear weapons

3:40 pm on 20 February 2010

Iran's supreme leader has denied his country is developing nuclear weapons, and says religious beliefs would bar them from using such weaponry.

Ayatollah Ali Khamanei was responding to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which raised concerns that past and current work in Iran might be aimed at developing a nuclear warhead.

Iranian media report Ayatollah Khamenei said: "The West's accusations are baseless because our religious beliefs bar us from using such weapons. We do not believe in atomic weapons and are not seeking that."

Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is peaceful, but the United States and other western countries believe that's not the case.

Russia says it's "very alarmed" over the report while the US warned Iran it faces consequences if it fails to meet international responsibilities.

According to the report by the IAEA, Iran's level of co-operation with the agency is decreasing, adding to concerns about "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear programme.

Britain and Germany both say the report reinforces their "great concerns" about Iran's enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activities.

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is peaceful. However, the US and other Western nations fear it is enriching uranium for nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report will be discussed by the board of the agency at a meeting between 1-5 March.

The BBC reports it was the first IAEA report on Iran compiled under the agency's new director general, Yukiya Amano.