Zimbabwe on Saturday denied it had signed an agreement to export uranium to Iran after The Times of London reported the southern African nation had agreed to sell the material to the Islamic Republic.
“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, Bloomberg quoted Zimbabwean Deputy Mining Minister Gift Chimanikire as saying during a phone interview. Chimanikire is an opposition politician who served in President Robert Mugabe's outgoing coalition.
Zimbabwe "signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran, which covers various agreements in mineral trading such as diamonds, gold and other minerals,” he added.
The Times of London earlier Saturday had reported that Chimanikire had claimed his country had signed a deal to sell raw uranium to Iran.
“I have seen [a memorandum of understanding] to export uranium to the Iranians,” the Times quoted Chimanikire as saying.
Such a deal would constitute a clear violation of international sanctions.
The Times report cited Chimanikire as saying the deal would go through regardless of the US having warned Zimbabwe that there would be serious ramifications were the sale to be completed.
Iran's nuclear policy has long been a source of concern for Israel, the United States and Europe. Faced with various economic sanctions and the possibility of a military strike, Iran has continued to pursue its attempt to attain nuclear capacity.
Newly sworn-in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been in the spotlight as Western powers try to determine if he will be more likely to cooperate in regard to Iran's nuclear program.
Zimbabwe has also been hit with international sanctions to its state-owned mining companies due to human rights abuses. Chimanikire said that the deal with Iran was a necessary alternative for the cash-strapped country given the sanctions against its mining industry.
The Times quoted British security officials as saying that they have been aware of ongoing talks between Iran and Zimbabwe regarding a possible uranium deal for more than two years.
Experts believe that the Zimbabwean uranium will be very difficult and costly to extract and may not be ready for export for some time, according to the Times.