Thursday, April 24, 2014 Local time: 00:39

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Zimbabwe Trade Minister Dismisses Report of Uranium-Supply Pact with Iran

President Robert Mugabe last week told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Harare that Zimbabwe backed his controversial nuclear development program

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Sandra Nyaira

Zimbabwe on Monday dismissed media reports saying it had signed an agreement under which Iran would be allowed to mine uranium in the country.

The UK-based Telegraph newspaper on the weekend said a secret deal was struck between the two countries under which Zimbabwe in exchange would get a steady supply of oil from Iran.

President Robert Mugabe last week told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Harare that Zimbabwe backed his controversial nuclear development program. Mr Mugabe accused the West of seeking to punish the two countries for asserting their independence, especially when it came to re-distributing national resources to indigenous people.

But Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube on Monday dismissed the Daily Telegraph report saying it is not even clear Zimbabwe has uranium reserves.

"It's not true. No such agreement was signed," Ncube told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira.

"Also there is absolutely no certainty that Zimbabwe has uranium deposits so how can Zimbabwe strike a deal on a deposit that is not there in the first place. You first have to prove that there are uranium deposits and that has not been done," added Ncube.

Previously President Mugabe told the media Zimbabwe held untapped uranium deposits.

Mr. Ahmadinejad was in Zimbabwe last week for a two-day visit during which he officially opened the International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.

Ncube said Zimbabwe and Iran had only signed general cooperation agreements in the fields of energy, science and technology and agriculture, but officials from the two countries still had to meet to finalize details of any investment. He said a bilateral trade agreement has been put on ice until Harare consulted the Common Market For East and Southern Africa or COMESA, of which Zimbabwe is a member.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Dewa Mavhinga says most deals signed with other governments are shrouded in secrecy making it difficult for the ordinary person to understand and benefit from them.

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