On Friday, some Western and Israeli papers reported that Zimbabwe and Iran had agreed on a plan to extract Zimbabwean uranium for export to Iran to be used in the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear program.
The Times of London was the first newspaper to carry the story, citing an interview with Chimanikire in which he reportedly revealed that “Zimbabwe had signed a memorandum of understanding to supply Iran with uranium.”
“I have seen an MoU to export uranium to the Iranians,” the Times quoted Zimbabwe’s deputy mining minister as saying.
There are known uranium deposits in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley, although “the quality, quantity and economic viability of the reserves have never been formally established,” the Times reported.
After the initial reports went viral, the Bloomberg news agency contacted the minister concerned to verify the story. Chimanikire, who belongs to the outgoing opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, denied the content of reports, telling Bloomberg: “We have no capacity to handle uranium as a country, and besides we don’t even know the quantity of uranium.”
The deputy minister added: “We signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran, which covers various agreements in mineral trading such as diamonds, gold and other minerals.” He also told Bloomberg that the MoU with Iran was signed some time ago, and not this year.
If the stories are true, it would be another setback for severely damaged relations between Iran and the West over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Both the United States and the European Union have imposed a host of crippling sanctions on Iran in response to the development of nuclear technology, which the West claims may have military applications and Tehran insists is only for civilian purposes.
Zimbabwe is also subject to international trade restrictions due to the poor human rights record of the authoritarian regime led by President Robert Mugabe. These include sanctions against its state-owned mining companies.