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Resistance group claims Iran building secret underground nuclear facilities

Nuclear plant in Iran
Associated Press, LONDON – An Iranian exile group claimed Tuesday that Tehran has secretly built a network of tunnels and underground facilities with the help of two Russian scientists in an effort to conceal parts of its atomic and missile programs.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI, alleged the facilities conceal nuclear equipment, research workshops, and nuclear and missile command-and-control centers. It said the information was based on sources within the Iranian establishment, but did not identify them.

"The Iranian Resistance has now received information about 14 locations where these tunnels and underground facilities have been built near Tehran, Isfahan, Qom, and some other cities," said Hossein Abedini, a member of the group’s foreign affairs committee.

Speaking to reporters in a conference room in Parliament, Abedini said Iran has used front companies and technology imported from other countries for the tunnel construction project.

He also claimed the Iranian Tunneling Association _ which he said was founded in 1998 by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s current president _ "has played a vital role to cover up the regime’s nuclear- and missile-related tunnel construction project."

He said two Russian scientists, whom he identified only as "Andre Kridiko" and "Lakht," had "cooperated with the Iranian regime in building these secure facilities." He did not provide any other information about the them.

Russia is helping Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, Iran, a project that Tehran says is intended strictly for electricity generation. The United States, however, accuses Tehran of using the project as part of an effort to build atomic weapons.

Israeli officials have openly discussed the possibility of an attack on Iran, either alone or with other countries, aimed at crippling its nuclear development capabilities.

NCRI _ the political arm of the Mujahedeen Khalq, a group that Washington and the European Union list as a terrorist organization _ has a mixed record of accuracy.

Three years ago it disclosed information about two hidden nuclear sites that helped uncover nearly two decades of covert Iranian atomic activity and sparked present fears that Tehran wants to build a bomb. But most of the information it has presented since then to back up claims that Iran has a secret weapons program has not been publicly verified.

Abedini urged the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union to break off talks with Iran about its nuclear program and to the refer the case to the U.N. Security Council to determine if Tehran’s "religious dictatorship" should be punished for breaking international accords by "trying to acquire nuclear weapons."

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA’s director general, has said Iran’s program was concealed for 20 years and that more transparency is needed by Tehran so the agency can allay concerns about whether it was designed for peaceful purposes or to develop nuclear weapons.

In a speech in London earlier this month, ElBaradei said Iran’s uranium enrichment program _ a possible pathway to nuclear arms _ remains suspended and the IAEA "hasn’t seen a smoking gun."

Iran says it wants only to make fuel, but international concern is growing that the program could be misused. EU-Iranian talks about this sensitive issue are scheduled to resume this week.