Iran seeking nuclear weapons technology - ElBaradei
Iran wants the ability to build nuclear weapons to gain the reputation of a major power in the Middle East, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a BBC interview broadcast on Wednesday.
Tehran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency denied the assertion, Reuters reported.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last week has cast doubt on Western powers' hope of a dialogue with Iran aimed at curbing its uranium enrichment program, which Iran says is for generating electricity only.
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran sees a nuclear breakout ability as an "insurance policy" against perceived threats from neighboring countries or the United States.
"My gut feeling is that Iran definitely would like to have the technology ... that would enable it to have nuclear weapons if they decided to do so," ElBaradei told the BBC.
The enrichment process can be configured to produce fuel either for nuclear power plants or weapons.
"(Iran) wants to send a message to its neighbors, it wants to send a message to the rest of the world: yes, don't mess with us, we can have nuclear weapons if we want it," he said.
"But the ultimate aim of Iran, as I understand it, is that they want to be recognized as a major power in the Middle East and they are.
"This is to them the road to get that recognition to power and prestige and ... an insurance policy against what they heard in the past about regime change, axis of evil," ElBaradei said.