Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tehran denies militants' claim of hidden nuclear facility

TEHRAN: Iran denied on Friday claims by an opposition group that it is building a new bomb-proof underground site for developing nuclear weapons, linked by tunnel to an existing complex at Natanz. Ali Larijani, the chief for international relations of the Supreme National Security Council, "denies the existence of a secret nuclear site in Iran," according to a statement that Larijani's deputy, Javad Vaidi, read on national television. "These baseless and erroneous accusations are aimed at destroying the positive climate ... created by Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the president's trip to New York," the statement said, referring to Iranian head of state Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
They are also aimed at unsettling matters ahead of talks Friday among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, on possible further UN sanctions over Tehran's refusing to stop enriching uranium, he said.
On Thursday, Mehdi Abrichamtchi, of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said "information we have from inside the regime indicates that the site is destined for military nuclear activity, mainly for the further enrichment of uranium."
Located in central Iran, it consists of a "vast underground area beneath the Karkass Mountains linked to the surface by two tunnels and connecting with a third tunnel" to the Natanz nuclear complex, 5 kilometers away, Abrichamtchi told a press conference in Paris.
"The site is protected against aerial attack. If Natanz is bombed, it won't be touched," he said. "To maintain secrecy, the area has been declared a military zone and the regime has bought up all the local land."
According to the NCRI, plans for the new complex were drawn up two years ago and it will be operational in six months.

In July, the US-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reported satellite evidence showing Iran was building a "tunnel facility near the Natanz uranium enrichment complex."

In 2002, the NCRI was the first to reveal the existence of secret nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak. Its new allegations come at a time of growing international tension over Iran's nuclear program.

The NCRI is the political arm of the People's Mujahideen of Iran, which has been declared a terrorist organization in the EU and the US.
The IAEA has been probing Iran's program for the past four years but has so far failed to label its purpose as military.

Tehran rejects Western charges that it is trying to build atomic weapons under the guise of its civilian nuclear program and insists it is entitled to pursue uranium enrichment as a signatory to the non-Proliferation Treaty.

The UN Security Council has already passed two rounds of sanctions to force Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to supply the fuel for power generation or, possibly, nuclear arms. - AFP

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