Text size

Iran and South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday on bilateral cooperation. The deal paves the way for the two countries to expand trade ties, and may include South Africa selling uranium to Tehran.

The memorandum was signed by South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and his Iranian counterpart Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani. This was the first such visit by a South African defense minister to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

At Tuesday's signing ceremony, Shamkhani praised South Africa for its position on Iran's nuclear weapons program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. He said that the agreement will lead to the expansion of bilateral cooperation in all areas

Lekota reportedly said that making peaceful use of nuclear energy is the legitimate right of the Islamic Republic.

Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, the head of Military Intelligence's research department, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Iran is expected to have full nuclear ability by early 2007. Kuperwasser also said that Iran will purchase the technology it needs to enrich uranium by the first half of next year.

Iran said Tuesday it would destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if the Jewish state were to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. A senior commander warned that Iranian missiles could reach Dimona.

"If Israel fires a missile into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it has to say goodbye forever to its Dimona nuclear facility, where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons," said the deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, in a statement.

Zolqadr was referring to the site of Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr, a coastal town on the Gulf. Built with Russian assistance, the reactor is due to come on stream in 2005.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for the generation of electricity. But Israel and the United States strongly suspect Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons.

Zolqadr did not say how Iran would attack Dimona, but the head of the Revolutionary Guards' political bureau, Yadollah Javani, said Iran would use its Shahab-3 missile.

"All the territory under the control of the Zionist regime, including its nuclear facilities, are within the range of Iran's advanced missiles," Javani said in a separate statement.

Iran announced last week it had successfully test-fired a new version of the Shahab-3, which has a range of 1,296 kilometers. Israel is about 965 kilometers west of Iran.

Israel has developed with the United States the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system. It is said to be capable of intercepting and destroying missiles at high altitudes.