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‘Iran considered nuclear weapons during 1980s'

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Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said his country had considered building nuclear weapons during the 1980s, and received centrifuges from Pakistan.

In an interview to Iranian daily Etemaad, Mr. Rafsanjani, who’s now the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, an administrative assembly appointed by the Supreme Leader, said the post-revolutionary regime had held talks with AQ Khan, founder of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb programme.

“…during the [Iran-Iraq] war, we both tried to restart the programme. It seems Mr. Abd al-Qadir Khan himself was of the belief that the world of Islam should have a nuclear bomb. This was his conviction,” said Mr. Rafsanjani, according to an English translation of the interview published by The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a U.S.-based policy institute.

He was the First Chairman of the Parliament during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and became the President shortly thereafter.

“At any rate, it was agreed that they (Pakistan) should help us a bit — for example, by delivering second-hand first-generation centrifuges, along with some designs — so that we could build it ourselves,” he said, adding: “The Pakistanis gave us 4,000 second-hand first-generation centrifuges, along with designs.”

However, the former President did not make it clear whether the Pakistani government was involved in this transfer of technology or it was made by the AQ Khan network. In 2005 March, Pakistan's then information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said Mr. Khan had supplied centrifuges to Tehran, but “the government was in no way involved in this”.

Mr. Rafsanjani, who was Iran’s President from 1989 to August 1997, said he went to Pakistan to meet Mr. Khan. “During my visits to Pakistan, I wanted to meet him, but they did not introduce him to me. Ayatollah Khamenei, too, did not meet him.”

Mr. Rafsanjani’s revelations come at a crucial time when Iran is implementing a landmark nuclear deal it reached with the U.S. and other major world powers earlier this year. Throughout the negotiations, Tehran had maintained that its nuclear programme had always been peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, is investigating whether the Iranian nuclear programme ever had military ambitions. Its report is expected to be released in December.

Asked if anyone in Iran had recommended his to build a nuclear bomb, Mr. Rafsanjani said: “All those [who] loved Iran were engaged in nuclear activities [and] engaged in the work because of the non-military advantages of the project. Because of their Islamic ethics, they were opposed to building the nuclear bomb and we knew that it had no other results but mass destruction.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:27:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/iran-considered-nuclear-weapons-during-1980s/article7819462.ece

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