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U.S./World

Prominent lawmaker says Iran can build an atomic bomb

| Sunday, April 8, 2012

TEHRAN -- Iran has the knowledge and scientific capability to produce nuclear weapons but will never do so, a prominent lawmaker has said.

Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam is a parliamentarian not a government official and his views do not represent the Iranian government's policy. It however is the first time that such a prominent Iranian politician has publicly stated that Iran has the technological capability to produce a nuclear weapon.

His assertion published on parliament's website late Friday suggests that Iran is trying to show unity in its political establishment around its often repeated claims that it seeks world-class technological advances including nuclear expertise, but does not want to develop atomic arms as the United States and its allies claim.

The statement precedes planned talks beginning next week with world powers over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Moghadam said Iran can easily produce the highly enriched uranium that is used to build atomic bombs, but that it is not Tehran's policy to go that route.

"Iran has the scientific and technological capability to produce (a) nuclear weapon, but will never choose this path," he said in remarks carried by the parliamentary website icana.ir.

Iran is accused of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, saying its program is peaceful and geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

The White House did not comment on Moghadam's comments.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly insisted that his country is not seeking nuclear weapons, saying that holding such arms is a sin as well as "useless, harmful and dangerous."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also asserted that if Iran one day decides to build nuclear weapons, it will do so openly and won't fear anybody. However, he has also emphasized that Iran has no intention to weaponize what he describes as a peaceful nuclear program.

Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper asserted in a January report to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran has the means to build a nuclear weapon but has not yet decided to follow through.

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