AFP, STOCKHOLM, September 1 – The main Iranian opposition group charged here on Thursday that the country’s Islamic regime has smuggled 20 kilos (44 pounds) of Beryllium with the aim of using it to make nuclear bombs.
"The (Iranian) ministry of defense is vigorously trying to obtain Beryllium. This includes smuggling 20 kilos of Beryllium from China in 2004 for use in the regime’s nuclear weapons project," Perviz Khazai, an official in the Scandinavian branch of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told reporters in Stockholm.
Iran has made no secret of its wish to develop civilian nuclear power, but vehemently denies wanting to produce nuclear weapons.
The Iranian opposition have in the past exposed nuclear activities kept secret by the Islamic Republic — most notably the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz — but its claims are not possible to substantiate independently.
The NCRI is an exiled opposition group which frequently makes accusations against the regime in Iran, and its claims on the nuclear issue appear most frequently in the run-up to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meetings.
The group is also linked to the People’s Mujahedeen, which is classified as a terrorist group by both the United States and the European Union.
The NCRI, which claims to have infiltrated the regime and the military, said it had learned that the order to smuggle the Beryllium came from the office of foreign trade at the defense ministry.
Beryllium is a high-melting, lightweight metal that can function as a neutron reflector, an optional layer commonly used as the closest layer surrounding the fissile material in nuclear weapons.
The group also claimed that a company called the Majd Gostar-Company, which manufactures copper-Beryllium alloy, had arranged to bring the material into Iran.
The NCRI on Thursday alleged that Beryllium oxide had been produced at Teheran’s Malek-Ashtar Industrial University, run by the Islamic Republic Guard Corps (IRGC). It also said that tests on producing neutron initiators from Beryllium had been carried out at the Imam Hussein University, also run by the IRGC.
Iran claims that its nuclear fuel work, which it resumed last month despite massive international protests, is purely for peaceful aims.
Iran’s resumption of its nuclear activities jeopardizes nearly two years of diplomatic efforts by the so-called EU3 (Britain, France and Germany) to convince the country to swap its sensitive fuel work for trade and other benefits.
European Union diplomats said on Wednesday that the block would not immediately call for United Nations sanctions against Iran, but if the Islamic republic does not fall into line before an IAEA meeting in Vienna on September 19, the European trio is expected to take a more hard-line approach.