Zimbabwe has breached international sanctions with an agreement to supply Iran with uranium to fuel its nuclear programme.
Zimbabwean Deputy Mining Minister Gift Chimanikire said: “I have seen [a memorandum of understanding] to export uranium to the Iranians.”
The agreement, which was reportedly signed in 2012, is likely to cause alarm in western capitals.
The United States and the European Union have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran over its declared nuclear programme.
Zimbabwe is also subject to international sanctions over its human rights record and conduct of elections.
A report compiled by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog more than two years ago detailed a visit from Iran’s then Foreign and Co-operative Ministers to Zimbabwe to strike a deal, with the Iranians also sending engineers to assess uranium deposits
President Robert Mugabe, who won another five-year term in disputed polls in July, has publicly backed Iran’s nuclear drive.
During a visit by Iran’s then president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Harare in April 2010, Mugabe said his guest should be assured of “Zimbabwe’s continuous support of Iran’s just cause on the nuclear issue”.
He said the uranium deal had been made without his knowledge, and was only known to a handful of people at the top of the government.
A Chinese company has been surveying yellow-cake deposits in the far northeast of the country and the Zimbabwe government has been actively looking for buyers, according to Chimanikire, who, as a member of Zimbabwe’s opposition is likely to be replaced now that the election has brought an end to the shaky coalition government.
Uranium ore, or yellow cake, can be converted to a uranium gas which is then processed into nuclear fuel or enriched to make nuclear weapons.
Iran has long maintained that it needs the uranium for peaceful nuclear aspirations, as a source of domestic energy.
Mugabe has begun his seventh term as Zimbabwe president following an election once again stained by accusations of widespread vote rigging
Despite the agreement, analysts have said it was likely to be a long time before Zimbabwe’s uranium reserves were ready for export. – Sapa