AP: Iran may be hiding its nuclear technology inside special tunnels because of threats of attack by the United States, Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator said in an interview
published Friday. The Associated Press
PARIS – Iran may be hiding its nuclear technology inside special tunnels because of threats of attack by the United States, Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator said in an interview published Friday.
Hassan Rowhani, who has been negotiating with Germany, Britain and France over Iran’s uranium enrichment program, was asked by an interviewer for the daily Le Monde: “Is it accurate that Iran has built tunnels meant to serve Iran’s nuclear activities?”
Rowhani responded that reports Iran was building tunnels to hide its nuclear technology “could be true,” he said.
“From the moment the Americans threaten to attack our nuclear sites, what are we to do? We have to put them somewhere,” Rowhani said.
President George W. Bush – who once called Iran part of an “axis of evil” with North Korea and prewar Iraq – has insisted that Tehran must not develop nuclear weapons, but he said in Brussels this week that it is “simply ridiculous” to assume that the United States has plans to attack Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program.
“Having said that, all options are on the table,” Bush said after discussing the issue with European allies.
In the Le Monde interview, Rowhani did not appear assuaged by Bush’s statement about an attack being “simply ridiculous.”
Bush “immediately added that all options were open. So the second phrase neutralizes the first,” Rowhani said.
Bush said that European negotiators with Tehran represent the United States as well as the EU and NATO and that he supports their efforts.
Tehran has temporarily suspended its uranium enrichment program, in an agreement reached with the European Union. Highly enriched uranium and plutonium are the building blocks of nuclear weapons.
Iran has said that it will decide by mid-March whether to continue its suspension, which is monitored by UN nuclear inspectors, depending on the progress in negotiations with the Europeans.
The United States accuses Iran of having a secret program to make nuclear arms, but Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes.
Rowhani said in Berlin on Friday after a round of talks with the Europeans that Iran hoped to work out soon an agreement with European negotiators on the county’s uranium enrichment program.
Rowhani told Le Monde that taking the issue to the UN Security Council for eventual sanctions, as Bush has threatened, would turn the issue into a “North-South question,” pitting the developing world against rich nations.
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany seemed less optimistic than Rowhani on reaching an agreement on enrichment, saying that “the positions of the two sides are complex and difficult to bridge.”
Iran to return nuclear fuel
Russia’s atomic agency chief, Alexander Rumyantsev, flew to Iran on Friday to sign a vital agreement on the return of nuclear fuel that would finally allow Russia to launch the Islamic state’s first nuclear power plant, Agence France-Presse reported from Moscow.
Russia refused to launch the plant near the southern town of Bushehr until Iran agreed to return all of the nuclear fuel provided for the plant by Russia.
Like Washington, Moscow feared that Tehran could reprocess the material to make a nuclear weapon.
Iran initially refused to sign the fuel deal, citing the dangers of transporting radioactive material back to Russia, but Moscow refused to budge.
The two sides finally made headway last month and Russia is now on track to launch the $ 800 million project at the start of next year. “The agreement on the return of nuclear fuel will be signed on Saturday,” said Rumyantsev’s spokesman, Nikolai Shingaryov.