Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that the Islamic Republic is not afraid of manufacturing nuclear weapons, but does not intend to do so.
"If we do want to make a bomb, we are not afraid of anybody," Iran's state television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Ahmadinejad's statements come on the same day that five Russian scientists involved in designing Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant were killed in a Russian plane crash.
The Tupolev-134 plane broke up and caught fire during an emergency landing outside the northern city of Petrozavodsk, Moscow-based International News Agency RIA Novosti reported.
The crash resulted in 44 fatalities.
Three of the scientists killed – Sergei Rizhov, Gennadi Benyok, and Nicolai Tronov – were among the the Bushehr facility's designers. Andrei Trokinov, a top Russian nuclear technology expert, was also killed, as was nuclear expert Valery Lalyn.
Russian officials said, while technical failure was ruled out early in the investigation, no foul play was suspected at this time.
The five men were involved in ensuring the Bushehr facility was able to withstand natural disasters.
Iran, which has been evasive about the extent and operations of its nuclear program, insists its nuclear facilities are peaceful and are meant only to generate power for a future nuclear reactor network.
The West believes Iran's protestations of innocence are dubious as best. The UN Security Council has passed four sets of sanctions against Iran for refusing to freeze its nuclear activities, which it believes may be a front for a weapons program.
Iran recently moved its trebled its centrifuge operations for uranium enrichment and moved them to an underground facility off-limits to international inspectors.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probe into allegations of secret experiments that could reflect attempts to develop an arms program has been hampered by Iran, according to UN officials close to the probe.