Washington:  Rick Santorum, an ultra-conservative Republican presidential candidate, has vowed to ensure that Iran would not produce a nuclear weapon if he was elected president.

The former senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum, said he would authorise air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities unless the country opens them up to inspectors.

“Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch,” Santorum said on a TV channel’s 'Meet the Press' programme on Sunday, following the announcement by Iranian scientists of producing the country's first nuclear fuel rod.

The West, led by the US, suspects Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme, but the Islamic Republic insists it needs nuclear power only for civilian purposes.

Iran is already the subject of a wide range of international sanctions.