Sunday 30 April 2017

Zimbabwe to break UN law in uranium deal with Iran

Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg

Zimbabwe is to break United Nations sanctions on Iran with a deal to sell the country uranium.

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's foreign minister, said the sanctions -- which prohibit UN member states from providing Iran with raw materials that it could use to make a nuclear weapon -- were unfair.

He said that Zimbabwe, which was also the subject of sanctions over human rights abuses perpetrated by supporters of President Robert Mugabe, would benefit economically from the agreement.

A leaked intelligence report suggests that oil-rich Iran will be awarded exclusive access to Zimbabwe's uranium reserves in return for providing the country with fuel.

The report -- compiled by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog -- said Iranian ministers had visited Zimbabwe to strike a deal, and sent engineers to assess uranium deposits.

Experts say that the move contradicts Iran's claim that it has enough domestic uranium supplies to sustain its nuclear energy ambitions.

The UN imposed new sanctions on Iran last year after it refused to halt uranium enrichment. Zimbabwe's uranium stocks consist of an estimated 455,000 tonnes at Kanyemba, north of Harare.

One metallurgist with knowledge of the deposit said it would take two to three years of development before it produced uranium and it would be exhausted in about five years.

Mr Mugabe has previously dismissed as "illegal" the US and EU sanctions that target him and members of his regime.

Ben Rhode, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said there would be concern about the deal internationally.

"Iran already has a guaranteed fuel supply from Russia for the lifetime of its Bushehr power reactor," he said.

"It is, therefore, difficult to understand the peaceful, commercial nature of such a procurement." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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