Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Exiles claim Iran has nuclear weapons program
Iran's government is conducting nuclear activities linked to a covert atomic weapons program at a military site unknown to U.N. inspectors, says an exiled opposition group that has given accurate information before.
"We know of a military site where Iran has been carrying out nuclear work," Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told Reuters.
Diplomats in Vienna who follow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, say the NCRI has been the best source of information on Tehran's previously undeclared nuclear program.
The NCRI, like Washington, accuses the Iranian government of using its nuclear power program as a front to develop atomic weapons. Tehran dismisses this allegation, insisting its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
Gobadi said that the group would disclose details of the site in Tehran, including its address and a map, at a news conference later Wednesday.
Update: Here's the press conference:
Iran obtained weapons-grade uranium and a design for a nuclear bomb from a Pakistani scientist who has admitted to selling nuclear secrets abroad, an exiled Iranian opposition group said on Wednesday.
The group, which has given accurate information before, also said Iran is secretly enriching uranium at a military site previously unknown to the United Nations, despite promising France, Britain and Germany that it would halt all such work.
"(Abdul Qadeer) Khan gave Iran a quantity of HEU (highly enriched uranium) in 2001, so they already have some," Farid Soleiman, a senior spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told reporters.
"I would doubt it was given enough for a weapon," he added.
Soleiman said Iran was enriching uranium, a process of purifying it for use as fuel for power plants or bombs, at a site in northeastern Tehran as part of a continuing covert program to develop nuclear weapons.
"It continues to enrich uranium as we speak," Soleiman said. He said the site had an unknown number of centrifuges, which purify uranium by spinning at supersonic speeds, as well as other technologies used to enrich uranium.
"There are more sites involving uranium enrichment in Iran," Soleiman said, adding he could not give details on them until they were verified by the group's sources inside Iran.
Soleiman said Iran was aiming to get a bomb by the middle of next year, two years ahead of Israel's latest estimate for when Tehran would be "nuclear capable."