Iran exile group claims evidence of hidden nuclear site
An Iranian opposition group in exile has claimed it had obtained information revealing the existence of a secret underground nuclear site located in tunnels beneath a mountain 45 miles north of Tehran.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said the site had been recently been completed but could not specify what type of nuclear activity it believed would be carried out there.
It said the site consisted of a complex of tunnels and warehouses across 300 acres, six miles east of the town of Damavand.
“The code name of the project is “Madan Charq” (literally “the mine of the east”),” it said.
“These revelations demonstrate once again that the mullahs’ regime has no intention of stopping or even suspending the development of a nuclear weapon,” said the NCRI, adding that it had gleaned information from more than 50 sources in various branches of the Iranian government.
The report claimed that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, was also a managing director of a company the NCRI claimed was overseeing the project’s “nuclear, biological and chemical programmes”. United Nations inspectors have attempted to speak to Mr Fakhrizadeh in the past without success.
In 2002, the NCRI correctly identified Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak, but analysts said it has a mixed track record of unmasking nuclear secrets.
Iran has been subjected to six UN resolutions regarding its nuclear programme, which the West suspects is designed to build a nuclear bomb at some stage.
The new allegation drew a cautious international response. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear inspector, said: “The agency will assess the information that has been provided, as we do with any new information we receive.”
The Foreign Office said that “because Iran is not fully cooperating with the IAEA, the international community cannot be sure about the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities anywhere in Iran”.
Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert in nuclear non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said “the report has features that seem credible, but there are other details that raise doubts about credibility”.
He added: “If the report is true, the plant may not be for enrichment, which does not require so many tunnels or warehouses. Also the described military organisational structure differs from Iran’s known enrichment plants.”
Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, however said that the NCRI report “deserves close attention”.
“It has been widely assumed that there is likely some Iranian nuclear infrastructure which is secret, undeclared, and which may be underground,” he said.
The latest accusation comes less than a month after the election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rowhani, as Iran’s new president raised hopes for a resolution of the nuclear dispute with the West, and might be timed to discredit such optimism.
The group claimed Mr Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, had a “key role” in the Madan Charq programme.
Iran did not respond on Thursday. It has always maintained its nuclear energy programme is entirely peaceful.
Friday, July 12, 2013
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