Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Iran denies Times newspaper 'nuclear trigger' report

Natanz uranium enrichment plant
Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant (image: DigitalGlobe)

Iran has denied a report in the Times newspaper that it has been working on a key component of a nuclear bomb.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, said the report had political aims and was part of a psychological war.

The paper reported that it had obtained documents referring to a neutron source - uranium deuteride - that experts say can only relate to weapons research.

Uranium deuteride can be used as a trigger for a nuclear chain reaction.

However, Mr Mehmanparast said: "Some countries are angry that our people defend their nuclear rights."

He said that when Western powers wanted to put pressure on Iran, they "crafted such scenarios, which is unacceptable".

He said the report was "baseless".

"Such statements are not worthy of attention. These reports... are intended to put political and psychological pressure on Iran," he said.

Further sanctions

The Times reported that the document it had obtained, dating from 2007, described a four-year plan by Iran to test a nuclear trigger using uranium deuteride.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast
Iran spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says the Times report is baseless

It can be used as a neutron initiator: the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says both Pakistan and China have explored the use of uranium deuteride in this way.

He says Western governments have always believed that Iran had carried out research related to the design of a nuclear weapon.

But they differ as to whether this research effort was abandoned and, if so, when.

Iran says its uranium enrichment programme is for purely peaceful purposes, aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more gas and oil.

But the US and its allies say it could be used to develop weapons.

Iran is already subject to three sets of UN sanctions for its refusal to suspend enrichment.

It is at risk of further sanctions after it rejected a deal to send low-enriched uranium abroad to be refined into fuel for a research reactor.

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