Khamenei denies Iran wants atomic weapons

TEHRAN: Iran's all-powerful leader said Friday the Islamic republic is not seeking atomic weapons despite global condemnation after a UN report expressed concern it is trying to develop a nuclear warhead.

Supreme leader and commander-in-chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's religious beliefs meant it was against the use of nuclear weapons.

"Recently some Western and US officials have been repeating some outdated and nonsensical comments that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons," said Khamenei.

"Iran will not get emotional in responding to these nonsensical comments, since our religious beliefs are against the use of such weapons," he told commanders at the launch of Iran's first domestically made naval destroyer in the Gulf.

"Iran's response to these nonsensical comments will not be an emotional one, since our religious beliefs are against the use of such weapons. We in no way believe in an atomic weapon and do not seek one."

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, in a blunt first report to the watchdog's board of governors on Thursday, expressed concern Iran might be seeking to develop a nuclear warhead.

"The information available to the agency... raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile," Amano wrote.

The Vienna-based IAEA has been investigating for a number of years intelligence reports claiming Iran was involved in weapons research.

In 2007, a US intelligence report said Iran halted such research in 2003, but Amano's report gives credence to the belief of some Western governments that the programme has covertly continued.

Iran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog dismissed the IAEA's concern as "baseless."

Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the documents cited in the report were "fabricated and thus do not have any validity."

"I have also said many times that when they showed these documents to us none of the documents had any confidential or secret stamps on them," Soltanieh said. "And thus it was proved that all of the documents have been fabricated and are baseless and thus do not have any validity.

"The issue of the missile or explosives has nothing to do with the IAEA's charter and function," he added.

Soltanieh repeated Tehran's stance that Iran's nuclear programme was a peaceful one and that this issue had been pointed out in the report.

"The Islamic republic has repeatedly said it will never halt its peaceful nuclear activities nor stop its cooperation with the agency," he added.

"Repeated requests by the IAEA for further inspection are not acceptable for us. Iran will neither cooperate beyond the IAEA safeguards nor will it carry out demands of the United Nations resolutions."

Soltanieh said Tehran's reasons for not doing so are that "Iran considers these resolutions to be contrary to international law."

Iran insists its intentions are peaceful, but Western powers suspect Tehran is enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons, as the material in highly pure form can be used in the core of a atomic bomb.

Tehran has been slapped with three UN Security Council resolutions demanding a halt to its controversial uranium enrichment.

According to the IAEA report, inspectors verified that none of Iran's declared nuclear material had been diverted.

But it also said: "Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

The report has raised concern in Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said it "confirms the great concerns that the German government has had for a long time about Iran's nuclear programme."

And France urged world powers to act with "determination."

"This report confirms precisely the very serious concerns of the international community" over Iran's nuclear programme, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.

"It shows how urgent it is to act with determination to respond to Iran's lack of cooperation."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle meanwhile echoed comments from US Vice President Joe Biden that he was confident China, seen as the least keen on new sanctions among permanent UN Security Council members, would come on board.

"I have the firm impression that China sees the prospect of Iran having nuclear weapons as unacceptable," Westerwelle said.