Wednesday 22 November 2017

Opposition group claims Iran is building secret nuclear site

Damien McElroy in London

Iran has been secretly building a vast underground complex to hide a nuclear facility in mountains east of Tehran in a development that would violate United Nations sanctions, an opposition group claimed yesterday.

The site, codenamed 311, is set inside a military base near Abyek, 75 miles outside the capital, and consists of a series of four bombproof tunnels set 200 metres deep inside a desert ridge.

The People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an opposition group with an extensive network inside the country, said Tehran began construction in 2005 and had spent $100m (€78m) on the tunnels.

The group has previously disclosed secret atomic plants at Natanz and Qom that the Iranian regime has subsequently acknowledged to be nuclear facilities.

The exiled opposition group is a radical but deeply rooted enemy of the Islamic republic and its armed wing Mujahedeen e-Khalk is proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the US and Europe.

"This is certainly part of the secret weapons programme," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for the group, who presented photographs of the site in Washington. "It's moved underground, in tunnels, hidden from the outside world."

The organisation said it had already passed the information, which includes eyewitness reports from inside the facility and satellite images, to the US government.

If construction was started in 2005, it would represent an embarrassing failure of US intelligence, which concluded that the Iranian leadership had suspended enrichment of uranium, the key component of a nuclear weapon, at the time.

A western diplomat said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN agency that safeguards atomic materials, would be expected to examine the report. If the information is credible, the IAEA would demand access to the site to ensure that no refinement of uranium had taken place.

"Any new plant would be in contravention of six UN Security Council resolutions warning Iran to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities," the diplomat said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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