HomeIran News NowIran Nuclear NewsIran is building secret nuclear components, says rebel group

Iran is building secret nuclear components, says rebel group

Hossein Abedini at London press confernedceIan Traynor

Guardian, August 19 – Iranian opposition activists said yesterday that Tehran was rushing to build nuclear components in breach of its commitments to the UN.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the outlawed Mujahideen-e-Khalq guerrilla movement, which is classified as a terrorist organisation in Europe and the US, said the Iranian authorities were covertly building and concealing thousands of centrifuge rigs used to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel or weapons.

Hossein Abedini at London press conferenceIan Traynor

Guardian, August 19 – Iranian opposition activists said yesterday that Tehran was rushing to build nuclear components in breach of its commitments to the UN.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the outlawed Mujahideen-e-Khalq guerrilla movement, which is classified as a terrorist organisation in Europe and the US, said the Iranian authorities were covertly building and concealing thousands of centrifuge rigs used to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel or weapons.

The NCRI regularly makes claims about Iran’s nuclear operations which are impossible to corroborate.

But three years ago it was the first to disclose secret Iranian centrifuge operations in Natanz. Those allegations turned out to be largely true and triggered the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear activities that has been running for two years.

Under agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the EU troika of Britain, Germany, and France, Iran halted operations at Natanz where, for 18 years, it was clandestinely developing a uranium enrichment facility entailing the manufacture and assembly of tens of thousands of centrifuges.

The centrifuges are assembled into cascades and spun at supersonic speeds to process gaseous uranium into enriched nuclear fuel which can also be used for the core of a nuclear bomb, depending on the degree of refinement.

In London yesterday the Iranian activists said Tehran has been fooling the UN and the EU by secretly constructing some 4,000 centrifuges while pursuing negotiations.

The centrifuges were said to be hidden at military and Iranian revolutionary guard facilities, off limits to the UN.

Earlier this month a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, Hosein Mousavian, said on television that Tehran had exploited the two years of negotiations with the EU to refine some of its nuclear activities at Natanz and the uranium conversion centre at Isfahan.

"The regime adopted a twofold policy here," he said. "Thanks to the negotiations with Europe we gained another year, in which we completed [the work] in Isfahan … In Natanz, much of the work has been completed."

As far as the UN inspectors are aware, the Iranians have less than 200 assembled centrifuges at Natanz.

Tehran lifted its suspension of operations at Isfahan last week in defiance of the EU and the IAEA, plunging the negotiations into a fresh crisis.

An emergency IAEA board meeting last week ordered the the Iranians to reinstate the Isfahan suspension or face a possible referral to the UN security council where sanctions could be imposed – though this seems unlikely as yet.

Tehran dismissed the ultimatum and said it has no intention of reinstating the freeze at Isfahan, calling the west’s bluff.

While the claims of secret centrifuge manufacture cannot be verified, the Iranians are demanding that they be allowed to operate a minimal uranium enrichment operation at Natanz, entailing the use of several thousand centrifuges.

This would enable them to maintain that they are running their own nuclear fuel cycle, their fundamental demand in the dispute with the west. But the Europeans reject this because they say it would allow Iran to develop the expertise for a nuclear bomb.