Iran said to hide nuclear site as UN deadline nears
( 2003-10-14 09:14) (Agencies)
An Iranian opposition group with a proven track record said Monday Iran was hiding another atomic facility, just two weeks before a U.N. deadline for Tehran to come clean about its nuclear ambitions.
The Oct. 31 deadline, set by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in a tough resolution last month, requires Tehran to prove it has no secret weapons program as Washington alleges, or face possible U.N. Security Council sanctions.
"We have information about another secret nuclear facility in Iran," an official from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, told Reuters in Vienna. He said the facility has been hidden from IAEA inspectors.
He gave no details about the site, but said the NCRI would provide full details Tuesday.
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and did not comment on the fresh allegations.
But separately, Iran said IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei would visit Tehran for talks Thursday.
In August 2002, the NCRI broke the news of two undeclared nuclear sites in Iran -- a massive uranium-enrichment complex at Natanz and a heavy-water production facility at Arak.
Tehran later declared these facilities to the IAEA, which has since placed surveillance cameras at Natanz.
In an e-mailed statement, the NCRI also said it would provide information on Iran's use of foreign technology in its atomic program and details about the Kalaye Electric Co., where U.N. inspectors found traces of weapons-grade uranium.
U.N. inspectors arrived in Iran two weeks ago and President Mohammad Khatami has said Tehran would provide all cooperation needed to prove its nuclear aims are limited to generating electricity and not making a nuclear bomb, as Washington claims.
A spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization told Reuters ElBaradei would spend two or three days in Iran. The IAEA confirmed that ElBaradei had accepted the invitation and said he would be accompanied by senior IAEA officials.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the purpose of the visit was for Iran to "provide the IAEA ... with all the remaining information required to clarify important questions that are still outstanding about Iran's nuclear programs."
"In terms of inspections, so far, we have been allowed to visit those sites to which we have requested access," ElBaradei said in e-mailed comments to Reuters Monday.
But he added that "no later than October 31 Iran must provide full and complete information on their nuclear program. This task is certainly doable in this timeframe and really shouldn't take more than a week or two."
The IAEA declined comment on the latest NCRI allegation but said it would closely study any information the exiles released.
The NCRI is a coalition of exiled opposition groups and sees itself as a potential replacement for Islamic rule in Iran. But the State Department lists the NCRI and its armed wing, the People's Mujahideen, as a terrorist organization.
Tehran denies it secretly enriched uranium and blamed the traces found on contaminated machinery purchased abroad in the 1980s, an explanation that has met with widespread skepticism.
Russia, which Washington says is helping Iran develop the capacity to build atomic weapons by building a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, said Iran understands it must come clean.
"Iran's even greater understanding of the need for transparency in its nuclear program has become clear," First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov was quoted by Russian agencies as saying after weekend talks in Tehran.
"Tehran announced that it was ready to answer any questions that the IAEA might have," he added.
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