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DoD Questions Iran's Statements

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 1998 – Pentagon leaders hope the Iranian president's recent statements that his country is not seeking nuclear arms or supports terrorism signals a change in policy.

President Muhammad Khatemi said in an interview with Cable News Network that Iran has no plans to build nuclear weapons and does not support terrorism.

"We hope that these statements are, in fact, true," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said during a Jan. 8 press briefing. "We hope this is a new policy for Iran that is being announced by the president. But there was a court in Germany that found Iranian complicity at the highest level of the government in terrorist acts in Germany.

"Our intelligence reports show there is state-sponsored terrorism activities by Iran, and we think this is destabilizing."

Iran is not now a nuclear power, Bacon said. However, the country is trying to import nuclear reactor parts that would give it the ability to make weapons grade nuclear materials. Bacon said Iran has approached China and other countries to buy reactor components.

Iran and Iraq used chemical weapons during their eight-year war in the 1980s, Bacon said. Analysts believe Iran was on the losing end of the chemical exchanges. Iran still regards Iraq as its primary regional enemy, and officials believe Iran is upgrading its chemical and biological to combat that country.

Iran has 500-kilometer range Scud missiles capable of delivering chemical or nuclear warheads, and it is seeking longer range missiles.

"This again, we think, is a sign of their effort to become a major regional power, and they've been pursuing this with some persistence over the last year or so," Bacon said. "We don't see signs that they're stopping their efforts to develop or procure longer-range ballistic missiles."

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