Iran's top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Sunday that Tehran has no interest in building an atomic bomb, despite Western powers' claims otherwise, according to an AFP report.
Zarif's comments, in a television interview with NBC News, came as Iran engages in talks with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany aimed at reaching a permanent nuclear deal.
"I will commit to everything and anything that would provide credible assurances for the international community that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, because we are not," Zarif was quoted as having told NBC from Vienna, where the talks are taking place.
"We don't see any benefit in Iran developing a nuclear weapon," he stressed.
Zarif rejected "calculations" suggesting his country would seek to develop nuclear weapons to guard itself against its neighbors.
"We need to go out of our way in order to convince our neighbors that we want to live in peace and tranquility with them," he said.
"The politics of geography -- the fact that we're bigger, the fact that we're stronger, that we're more populous, the fact that we have a better technology, the fact that our human resources is by far more developed than most of our neighbors -- all of these provide us with inherent areas of strength that we don't need to augment with other capabilities," Zarif added.
Calling the principle of nuclear deterrence "simply mad," the foreign minister insisted that Pakistan was not considered stronger than Iran simply because it has nuclear weapons.
"The fact that everybody in the international community believes that mutual assured destruction - that is the way the United States, Russia and others, seek peace and security through having the possibility of destroying each other 100 times over is simply mad," he told the American network.
"I do not believe that you need to inculcate this mentality that nuclear weapons makes anybody safe. Have they made Pakistan safe? Have they made Israel safe? Have they made the United States safe? Have they made Russia safe? All these countries are susceptible," Zarif said.
"Now you have proof that nuclear weapons or no amount of military power makes you safe. So we need to live in a different paradigm. And that's what we are calling for."
Iran and the West are currently seeking to turn an interim nuclear agreement reached into November into a permanent deal, but Iran has toughened its position in recent weeks.
Last Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran "needs" 19 times more nuclear centrifuges than the amount being offered by world powers.
Iranian nuclear agency head Ali Akbar Salehi echoed Khamenei’s remarks a day later, saying Iran wants to greatly expand its uranium enrichment program despite Western fears that it could be used to make atomic arms.
Zarif himself recently declared that the Islamic Republic had rejected the six powers’ “excessive demands”, and had previously stated that Iran will never give up on what it sees as its right to uranium enrichment.
The deadline to reach a permanent agreement is July 20, but the interim agreement can be extended if the sides cannot agree on a deal by then.