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Iran ‘building tunnel for nukes’

Agence France Presse, WASHINGTON – Iran is building a secret tunnel north of Tehran as part of efforts to conceal a clandestine nuclear weapons program, an exiled opposition leader charged today.
The claim, the latest in a string of revelations about the alleged program, came hours after the five permanent UN Security Council members agreed to refer Tehran to the full council over its disputed nuclear program…

The tunnel complex was being built in mountainous slopes in an area identified as Mini City, northeast of Tehran, supervised by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, opposition figure Alireza Jafarzadeh told reporters.

The claim could not be independently verified. Washington has accused Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge.

Mr Jafarzadeh said information on the alleged project was passed to the exiled opposition movement within the past few days from sources within the Iranian nuclear program.

"Iran has been building another secret tunnel near Tehran that is intended for nuclear research and development," he said, adding that construction on the project, code-named Hormuz, started in March 2005.

The project includes double-layered concrete walls, a layer of lead, a vertical shaft 50 metres deep and four branched parallel tunnels, six to nine metres wide, all of which were consistent with potential use in a nuclear program, Mr Jafarzadeh said at a press conference here.

"This is significant, because it is yet another indication that Iran is moving its nuclear weapons program underground," he said.

Past claims by the opposition have been denied by Iran’s official media. But the opposition said its credibility was proven when it made the first exposure of Iran’s nuclear program in 2002.

Outside experts said its record has been mixed since then.

Three weeks ago, Mr Jafarzadeh, former spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, claimed Iran had secretly built thousands of centrifuge machines for a nuclear plant at Natanz.

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