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The agreement was sealed last month during a visit to Tehran by a close aide to Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president who last weekend celebrated 30 years in power, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.
In return for supplying oil, which Zimbabwe desperately needs to keep its faltering economy moving, Iran has been promised access to potentially huge deposits of uranium ore – which can be converted into the basic fuel for nuclear power or enriched to make a nuclear bomb.
Mugabe hails uranium find and vows to pursue nuclear power
It has been known for many years that uranium deposits lie in the Zambezi river valley in northern Zimbabwe. But mining experts in Harare say these were not thought to be large enough to support a viable mine.
"It is a huge step from locating some uranium deposits to developing a working uranium mine and refinery, and it is an even bigger leap to establish a nuclear reactor," said John Robertson, an economist in Harare. "Where would Mugabe source the substantial finance and technical expertise needed to build a nuclear reactor?"
It could take four to five years to set up a uranium mine.Considerable technical skills would then be needed to produce the uranium concentrate needed for a nuclear reactor, said Mr Robertson.
Zimbabwe has poor relations with Britain, the European Union and the United States, but has close ties with two countries that have controversial nuclear programmes - Iran and North Korea.