South African Foreign Minister Roelof "Pik" Botha, in what was seen as the highest level acknowledgment of his country's nuclear potential, said Saturday South Africans can produce a nuclear bomb "if we want to."

Botha was in Vienna for two days of exploratory talks on whether South Africa may sign the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said no decision has been made.South Africa has been widely assumed to either have nuclear weapons, or have the capability to manufacture them. It has refused to allow inspections of its nuclear research and uranium enrichment facilities. Such inspections are mandatory under the 1970 treaty.

Asked at a news conference if South Africa possessed nuclear weapons, Botha said, "We are in a position to manufacture them if we want to."

A lower level South African official made a similar response several weeks ago in response to accusations within the United States that South Africa had a nuclear bomb.

Botha did not say if his country had actually produced or tested a nuclear bomb.