Zimbabwe denies secret uranium deal with Iran

Zimbabwe denied media reports on Saturday stating it signed a deal with Iran to provide raw material needed for the development of a nuclear weapon, Bloomberg news agency reported

“We have no capacity to handle uranium as a country, and besides we don’t even know the quantity of uranium deposits viable for mining,” Deputy Mining Minister Gift Chimanikire told Bloomberg in a phone interview.

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The Telegraph had earlier quoted the Zimbabwean official as saying contradicting statements earlier on Saturday.

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“I have seen [a memorandum of understanding] to export uranium to the Iranians,” Zimbabwean Deputy Mining Minister Gift Chimanikire told the British newspaper.

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The United States and the European Union have enforced substantial sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Despite Tehran insisting that it is for peaceful energy use, it is feared that the program is intended for harmful purposes.

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Zimbabwe is also subject to international sanctions over its human rights record and conduct of elections, reported the Agence France-Presse news agency.

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President Robert Mugabe, who won another five-year term in disputed polls last month, has publicly backed Iran’s nuclear drive.

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During a visit by Iran’s then president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Harare in April 2010, Mugabe said his guest should be assured of “Zimbabwe’s continuous support of Iran’s just cause on the nuclear issue.”

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Chimanikire is a member of Zimbabwe’s opposition who is likely to be replaced now that the election has brought an end to the shaky coalition government.

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He said the uranium deal had been made without his knowledge, and was only known to a handful of people at the top of the government.

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Despite the agreement, The Telegraph reported analysts as saying it was likely to be a long time before Zimbabwe’s uranium reserves were ready for export.