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Dissident group says Iran has secret nuclear facility


Satellite image of site alleged to be a previously undisclosed nuclear facility in Iran. (Courtesy DigitalGlobe and Globalsecurity.org).

An Iranian dissident group said on Thursday that it has identified a previously undisclosed nuclear facility under construction northwest of Tehran, claiming to have evidence that shows the Islamic nation is deceiving inspectors and moving forward in its pursuit of a bomb.

Details about the facility were scant, and experts said the allegation that construction at the site is nuclear-related could not be confirmed.

The information was presented by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, a group that has been on the mark in the past in exposing Iranian nuclear activities, including the identification in 2002 of a large centrifuge installation at Natanz.

But U.S. officials have greeted some of the organization's other claims with skepticism, and note that it has for years been on a State Department list of designated terrorist organizations.

"This facility has been under construction for years, and we've known about it for years. While there's still some ambiguity about its ultimate purpose - not unusual for something that's still taking shape - there's no reason at this point to think it's nuclear," a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Iranians put military stuff in tunnels, too. People should be cautious about reaching conclusions here."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed late last year that Tehran would build 10 new sites to enrich uranium. No evidence has surfaced yet to indicated that any of those facilities have been built.

The People's Mujaheddin Organization said the new site is located just north of a major highway connecting Tehran with the Iranian city of Qazvin. Satellite images presented by the organization showed significant excavation amid otherwise mountainous and barren terrain.

The group said that Iran has been engaged in major excavation work at the site for at least five years, building a network of underground tunnels designed to hold centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade purification levels.

A spokeswoman for the Iranian group, Soona Samsami, said the new compound was 85 percent complete and could prove to be "far more important than the Qom site," a facility that Iran worked on in secret for years before it was exposed by the Obama administration in 2009.

The dissident group's information came from an "internal network of sources" inside the country, Samsami said, adding that details had been shared with U.S. government agencies, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency, which carries out United Nations-mandated inspections of Iran's nuclear sites.

The facility is referred to within Iran as site "3-1-1," and has been portrayed internally as an annex to an existing military garrison nearby, an explanation that the group said is inconsistent with the scale of the tunneling work underway.

Noting that Iran had told the IAEA last year that there were no other nuclear facilities under construction, another group spokesman, Alireza Jafarzadeh, said, "Iranian officials were lying through their teeth."

Still, experts expressed skepticism about the new allegations.

"We saw nothing in the images that suggests a centrifuge plant," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security. "There are many underground facilities in Iran."

The Mujaheddin group aims to overthrow of the government in Tehran, and has lobbied to have the State Department terrorist label removed.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, including energy and medical research. An IAEA report released this week said that Iran has notified the agency that it is planning to build new nuclear facilities, but has rebuffed agency requests for details.

By Greg Miller  | September 9, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
 
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Comments

they are using intelligence originated from Israel to fool Washington into another war in the middle-east.

Posted by: getjiggly | September 9, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Iran has already said that it is planning to build 10 or even 20 new enrichment sites around the country. Also, it has repeatedly indicated that, under the NPT rules, it does not have to reveal their locations until 180 days before fissile material is introduced in them. So, whether this information is correct or not, as long as it is not being actually used for enrichment, there is no violation and this story is no big deal.

Posted by: quinterius | September 9, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Obama is going to let Iran get the bomb and then the whole middle east will want one. Obama is to weak to do anything about it.

Posted by: farmsnorton | September 9, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, Iran did announce they will have over 10 new sites and there is no reason to be surprise. So, chill out and IAEA who is in charge of this monitoring will take care of the business.

So, the MKO "Mojahedin Khalegh Organization", can babble about what it is they want to, it only because they want to get financing from us. But they are a terrorist organization who has American blood on their hand and they can not be trusted.

They are the one who fought the Shah and started the hostage crises etc etc.

Posted by: Esther_Haman | September 9, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Skeptics are doing nothing but endangering international security.

Frank Pabian, a senior adviser on nuclear nonproliferation at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, strongly disagrees about the inaccuracy of PMOI/MEK and NCRI's revelations. “They’re right 90 percent of the time,” he said of the council’s disclosures about Iran’s clandestine sites. “That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but 90 percent is a pretty good record.”

Posted by: sh379 | September 9, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Link to full article

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/world/middleeast/06sanctions.html?pagewanted=all

And the Qom site "exposed" by President Obama was actually revealed by the PMOI/MEK in 2005!http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4985:iran-hides-nuclear-facilities-in-tunnels-exiles-say&catid=8:nuclear&Itemid=45

Posted by: sh379 | September 9, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

There are many factual errors in your reporting about Iran as usual. Here is one that jumps out:

"A spokeswoman for the Iranian group, Soona Samsami, said the new compound was 85 percent complete and could prove to be "far more important than the Qom site," a facility that Iran worked on in secret for years before it was exposed by the Obama administration in 2009."

The Qom facility was never exposed by Obama administration or anyone else. The facility as of yet to be completed was disclosed to IAEA under the Iranian current NPT agreement at least 18 months before any fissile material to be introduced in it, while the NPT requires only 6 months prior notification.

The important item here is the site was never exposed and it was Iran that disclosed it. There is no dispute there other than in some neocon/ziocon imaginations or falsified reporting on washington post and various other controlled media.

Can you please disclose the affiliation of the reporter of this article so independent people can make a judge? Enough of this non-sense war mongering we don't have enough money to fight all of Israel's wars!!!!

Posted by: mbintampa | September 9, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

@mbintampa

Qom site "exposed" by President Obama was actually revealed by the PMOI/MEK in 2005!http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4985:iran-hides-nuclear-facilities-in-tunnels-exiles-say&catid=8:nuclear&Itemid=45

Posted by: sh379 | September 9, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

@mbintampa You can't dispute a report written in 2005 http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4981:iran-opposition-group-says-tehran-building-secret-nuke-tunnels&catid=8:nuclear&Itemid=45

Posted by: sh379 | September 9, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

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