Zim denies deal with Iran, seeks journalists over report

The two journalists from British newspaper The Times, Jan Raath and Jerome Starkey, are wanted for "spreading falsehoods" after the uranium deal story was published in the London paper on Saturday, Zimbabwe's Sunday Mail reported.

The Times, quoting outgoing deputy minister of mines Gift Chimanikire, wrote that Zimbabwe signed a deal with Iran to supply the Islamic republic with the raw materials needed to develop a nuclear weapon. The US and the EU have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is for peaceful energy uses, but which the Western powers fear is intended to build an atomic bomb.

Zimbabwe is also subject to international sanctions over its human rights record and alleged election fraud. President Robert Mugabe, who won another five-year term in disputed polls last month, has publicly backed Iran's nuclear drive. During a visit to Harare in 2010 by former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mugabe said his guest should be assured of "Zimbabwe's continuous support of Iran's just cause on the nuclear issue".

Chimanikire could not be reached for comment, but the Sunday Mail quoted him denying the story as "silly, speculative and dangerous. No licence has been issued. I never said such a silly thing," the paper quoted Chimanikire as saying. When contacted by AFP, The Times newspaper said it was not aware of the story in the Zimbabwean press and would prepare a response.

But one of the two reporters, Starkey, tweeted about the report of the "manhunt" by Zimbabwean police. When asked if he planned to add the event to his CV, he tweeted: "Let's wait and see that it ends ok."

National police spokeswoman Charity Charamba claimed not to know about the search for the journalists. "I have not heard about it. I only got a call from someone else who was inquiring," she told AFP, saying she would have to look into it. – Sapa

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