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Rafsanjani: Iran Considered Nuclear Deterrent In 1980s

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (file photo)
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (file photo)

Iran considered pursuing a nuclear deterrent when it began its nuclear program in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, a former president has been quoted as saying.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani suggested in an interview with Iran's Nuclear Hope magazine this week that officials were thinking about a deterrent capability when the nuclear program first began. But he insisted that it never took shape.

"When we first began, we were at war and we sought to have that possibility for the day that the enemy might use a nuclear weapon. That was the thinking. But it never became real," Rafsanjani said in the interview, which was carried by state news agency IRNA on October 27.

Iran is currently implementing a deal -- reached with world powers in July -- aimed at curbing its nuclear program to allay Western fears that it was trying to build an atomic bomb.

Throughout the negotiations, Iran insisted its program had only ever been for peaceful purposes.

"Our basic doctrine was always a peaceful nuclear application, but it never left our mind that if one day we should be threatened and it was imperative, we should be able to go down the other path," said Rafsanjani, who was parliament speaker during the 1980-88 war and was Iranian president from 1989 to 1997.

Iran fought a devastating war against Iraq in the 1980s. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program throughout the war but never developed a nuclear weapon.

Iraq did, however, use chemical weapons later in the war.

Rafsanjani said he travelled to Pakistan to try to meet Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program who later helped North Korea to develop an atomic bomb.

But Rafsanjani said he was unable to meet with Khan.

Khan was at the center of the world's biggest nuclear proliferation scandal in 2004 when he confessed to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

With reporting by Reuters, IRNA, and the Times of Israel