A British press claim that Zimbabwe has agreed to export uranium to Iran is "a malicious and blatant lie," the Associated Press quoted the African nation's Mines and Mining Development Ministry as saying on Sunday.
The London Times on Saturday said Zimbabwe had entered a "secret" agreement to supply the substance for Iran's atomic activities. The understanding took shape in 2012, ministry deputy head Gift Chimanikire is said to have told the newspaper.
The finding prompted the U.S. State Department to remind Zimbabwe that U.N. Security Council sanctions ban such sales, the Times reported separately. The multilateral body has adopted several rounds of sanctions against Iran over concerns that the country might be enriching uranium for use in nuclear arms. The Middle Eastern nation has consistently denied that suspicion, and on Sunday announced a pending deal for Russia to build a second atomic energy facility inside its borders, RIA Novosti reported.
Chimanikire's superior, Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu, on Sunday said Iran has "never applied for mining licenses [for] uranium or any other mineral," Agence France-Presse reported.
"If Chimanikire told the reporter about an agreement to export uranium to Iran, maybe it was in a dream," Mpofu said.
Chimanikire denied making comments the British newspaper had attributed to him, the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail reported. "We are exploring and not mining," he added. In separate remarks quoted on Saturday by the London Telegraph, he said his nation has been seeking potential uranium purchasers, and a Chinese firm was looking for uranium ore in its northwestern territory.
Times reporters Jan Raath and Jerome Starkey, are now wanted by Zimbabwean authorities for "spreading falsehoods," AFP reported. Writing on Twitter, Starkey said a "manhunt" for him was under way in the country.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday said he would try to end a “negative trend” in Tehran's international relations stemming from the atomic dispute, Bloomberg reported. At the same time, he would attempt “to diversify economic revenues and improve the allocation of existing ones,” Rouhani said as he urged legislators to accept his choices for cabinet members.