Jerusalem, April 8 – An Iranian official for the first time admitted that his country could indeed produce nuclear weapons, but was not currently doing so, a published report said Sunday.
“Iran has the scientific and technological capability to produce (a) nuclear weapon, but will never choose this path,” parliament member Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam said in remarks posted to the parliamentary website icana.ir.
Although not a member of the government, Moghadam’s comments appeared on an official government website. Iranian leaders had previously rejected allegations that any part of its nuclear program was involved in weapons development.
After years of refusing to comply with repeated U.N. sanctions to halt nuclear enrichment and faced with harsh economic sanctions, Iran is scheduled to meet in Istanbul later this week with the world’s leading powers. The United States, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and German known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UNSC and Germany), are expected to demand that Iran dismantle its Fordu nuclear plant hidden deep within a mountain, the Washington Post reported.
Iran has refused to open its secret nuclear sites to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. The IAEA issued a report last year that concluded some of Iran’s nuclear work could only be for military purposes. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said last month the IAEA “continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.”
Iran wants to get economic sanctions lifted, but Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country would stand its ground on its “right” to a nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that while sanctions are hurting the Iranian economy, they have so far not succeeded in stopping its nuclear program. “The Iranians tried to exploit negotiations to buy time, stall, and mislead [the Western powers],” Netanyahu said. “They tried to do this in the past. I hope that the leading world powers, headed by the United States, have learned their lesson.”
An Israeli official said Moghadam’s comments reinforced the Israeli view that Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension, and reiterated Israeli demands that after repeated threats by Iranian leaders that they want Israel destroyed, Iran must stop enriching uranium, remove all military-grade enriched material from the country, and dismantle its Fordo nuclear research site.