TEHRAN // A religious decree issued by Iran's supreme leader banning nuclear weapons is binding for the Iranian government, the Foreign Ministry said today, suggesting that the edict should end the debate over whether Tehran is pursuing atomic arms.
Ramin Mehmanparast, a ministry spokesman, said the West must understand the significance of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's edict for Iran, saying "there is nothing higher than the exalted supreme leader's fatwa to define the framework for our activities in the nuclear field".
"When the highest jurisprudent and authority in the country's leadership issues a fatwa, this will be binding for all of us to follow."
Mr Mehmanparast's comments come a day ahead of a new round of talks in Tehran with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.
Washington and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its programme is peaceful and geared towards generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to cancer patients.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, said last year that Tehran is not seeking atomic arms. He called possessing such weapons a "sin" as well as "useless, harmful and dangerous."