Zimbabwe’s mines ministry says reports that the country has struck a deal to sell uranium to Iran are false.
Outgoing mines deputy minister, Gift Chimanikire, a member of the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told VOA Sunday that he was interviewed Thursday by UK Times journalist Jerome Starkey over Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth and what that can do to improve the country’s economy.
“Never at one stage did the issue of Zimbabwe selling uranium to Iran ever occur during the interview,” said Chimanikire. “That is a fabrication. The reporter is being notoriously malicious because as far as I’m concerned he got into my office trying to find out whether Zimbabwe had the potential to actually turn around its economy depending on mining activities and in response I said yes, Zimbabwe has that potential. While we are operating at about 30 percent in our mining, I did make it clear to him that Zimbabwe needs about $5 billion to capitalize in order to produce more.”
Chimanikire says he has been trying to get in touch with Starkey since the “false” story came out but to no avail.
“He already had his story before he came to me. Being British he just wanted to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe,” said the deputy minister. “What he had attempted to do was to entice me to talk about diamond theft in the country and I said there’s no reported diamond theft in Zimbabwe. He then left and maliciously wrote the story about uranium and Iran. He was just trying to damage the image of the country.”
Police are now reportedly looking for the journalist over the story, according to state media reports. The reports say they are wanted for “spreading falsehoods” following the publication of the uranium deal story in the London Times newspaper on Saturday.
The Times quotes Chimanikire are saying Zimbabwe had signed a deal with Iran to supply the Islamic republic, currently under U.S. and European sanctions, with the raw materials needed to develop a nuclear weapon.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy uses but Western powers fear it is intended to build an atomic bomb.
President Robert Mugabe has in the past publicly backed Iran’s nuclear drive assuring former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of “Zimbabwe’s continuous support of Iran’s just cause on the nuclear issue” when he was his guest in Harare a few years ago to officiate at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.