Reuters: Iran has secretly built thousands of nuclear fuel enrichment machines and intends to use them at hidden sites across the country, an exile group said on Monday, citing what it said was an Iranian state document. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has provided accurate information on Iran’s nuclear programme in the past, said it obtained a copy of a report by Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council written a week after last month’s presidential elections. Reuters
By Francois Murphy
VIENNA – Iran has secretly built thousands of nuclear fuel enrichment machines and intends to use them at hidden sites across the country, an exile group said on Monday, citing what it said was an Iranian state document.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has provided accurate information on Iran’s nuclear programme in the past, said it obtained a copy of a report by Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council written a week after last month’s presidential elections.
The report to the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was an assessment of Iran’s two years of talks with France, Britain, and Germany. The three European Union countries were trying to persuade Tehran to scrap nuclear technology that could be used to make weapons.
“We were able to assemble thousands of centrifuge machines that could be made operational in different sites across the country,” an NCRI transcript of the report said. The authenticity of the document could not be verified.
Centrifuges are machines that spin at supersonic speeds to enrich uranium. Enriched to a low level, it can be used as fuel in power stations. Enriched further, it can fuel a nuclear bomb.
According to diplomats familiar with the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s inspections of Iran, the Islamic republic officially has enough parts for around one thousand centrifuges.
Tehran had agreed to freeze enrichment and other nuclear work during its talks with the Europeans, but resumed work at a uranium conversion plant on Monday after rejecting EU proposals.
Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at generating electricity but some Western countries say they suspect it is a front for an atomic weapons programme.
The NCRI is the political wing of the People’s Mujahideen, an armed guerrilla movement listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
It revealed the existence of a massive underground enrichment site at Natanz as well as a heavy water production plant in August 2002, sparking the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s investigation of Iran’s atomic programme, which still continues.
SECRET ENRICHMENT SITES
At a news conference in a Vienna cafe, the NCRI said there were secret enrichment sites in Iran but it could not name them.
“Our research into these sites continues. We are aware that there are additional sites. At the moment I am not able to reveal any more sites than the sites we have already revealed,” said Farid Soleimani of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The transcript of the report provided by the NCRI said two years of talks with the Europeans had enabled Tehran to develop its atomic programme, sign lucrative oil and gas deals and fend off U.N. Security Council sanctions.
“In autumn 2003, the international situation was overwhelmingly negative for our nuclear activities. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) had a long list of alleged breaches and failures by Iran,” it said.
“The situation was so negative that even (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei told us there was no way we could avoid being referred to the Security Council.”
Iran then entered into talks with the European trio in November 2003, thus avoiding referral to the Security Council for possible sanctions by the IAEA’s governing board .
“In autumn 2003 the country was not ready, from the point of view of military, security, political and economic situation, to confront all the possible consequences of referral to the U.N. Security Council,” the Iranian report said, according to the NCRI.
“Through the talks, we gained the opportunity to take significant steps to prepare ourselves for all eventualities.”
Britain, France and Germany have called an emergency meeting of the IAEA for Tuesday to discuss Iran’s resumption of nuclear work. They have said Tehran could be referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.