Zimbabwe has denied reports it signed a covert agreement to supply Iran with the uranium it needs to develop a nuclear weapon. Such a deal would be in violation of international sanctions imposed on the two regimes.
The Times of London quoted Gift Chimanikire, the outgoing Zimbabwean deputy mining minister, as saying that he has seen a memorandum of understanding “to export uranium to the Iranians,” despite warnings from the U.S. that such a deal may result in serious “ramifications.”
Chimanikire, who belongs to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party that recently lost to Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF, said that Zimbabwe had struck the deal last year.
Nevertheless, the report cited analysts as saying that Zimbabwe’s uranium reserves are as yet not ready for export.
Chimanikire later told Bloomberg that he was misquoted and the agreement was only aimed at future possible exploration in the mineral-rich southern African nation.
“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, Chimanikire said.
The U.S. and the EU have imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran with the purpose of stunting its nuclear program. Zimbabwe is also subject to international sanctions over its human rights abuses and election violations.
Mugabe has forged a cozy relationship with Iran and has frequently stood up for the Islamic republic at the United Nations and elsewhere, portraying it as a victim of Western regime-change plots.
The firebrand leader called Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons a “just cause.”
Despite its radical stance on the international stage, Zimbabwe also has an occasional alliance of convenience with Israel. It once purchased millions in riot control equipment from an Israeli firm.
It has recently faced accusations of using Nikuv, a shadowy Israeli company specializing in identity documents, to rig national elections, which Mugabe claims to have won in a landslide.