Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, who was at the United Nations last week, sat down with Lally Weymouth of Newsweek and The Post to discuss U.S. concerns over Iran's nuclear program, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Excerpts:
Q. Is Iran seeking a uranium enrichment capability solely to fuel nuclear power reactors, or is it also to give your country a nuclear option in the future?
A. It is solely for producing fuel needed in our power plants, because we propose to have seven power plants. It is not for producing nuclear weapons.
The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] does not seem to be persuaded that you are living up to the agreement that you made with the Europeans in the fall of 2003 -- to stop enriching uranium.
They expect us not to produce any spare parts for centrifuge machines. We have suspended the enrichment process, but they are asking us to suspend related activities, by which they mean the production of spare parts. For some time, in an agreement with the Europeans, we stopped manufacturing spare parts. But the Europeans were supposed to work actively to close Iran's file at the IAEA. Since they failed to meet their commitments, we did not find ourselves committed to the agreement.
Once Iran has the uranium enrichment capability, won't it give you the ability to pursue a nuclear weapons program?
We are capable to enrich uranium, and we are capable to manufacture all machinery that is needed [in this process]. But this does not mean that we are capable of producing [nuclear] weapons.
What you are doing, reportedly, is testing centrifuges, which are the last part of the nuclear fuel cycle. Once you test the centrifuges, aren't you set to go?
No, testing centrifuges is to produce uranium 235, which is good for fuel.
But centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, which is used to make nuclear weapons.
Centrifuges can be used to make highly enriched uranium. We do not have a plan to produce highly enriched uranium as needed for weapons.
Couldn't Iran reap the benefit of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy without having to enrich uranium and thus alarming the international community?
That means we'd have to buy fuel from outside the country. We want to be self-sufficient in producing fuel.
Are you worried that Israel may strike your nuclear facilities?