Iran Nuclear NewsIran forges ahead with plutonium project - exiles

Iran forges ahead with plutonium project – exiles

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Reuters: Iran is forging ahead with a program to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons while the European Union focuses its energy on shutting down Tehran’s uranium enrichment activities, an Iranian exile said on Friday. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

BERLIN – Iran is forging ahead with a program to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons while the European Union focuses its energy on shutting down Tehran’s uranium enrichment activities, an Iranian exile said on Friday.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of exiled Iranian opposition groups, said several Iranian officials expressed their pleasure at the progress made at Iran’s heavy water program at Arak, which could produce plutonium, at a recent meeting of top officials.

The meeting was the final session of a special nuclear committee within the powerful Supreme National Security Council before newly appointed government officials took office this week, a senior NCRI official said, citing sources “within the clerical regime.”

“During this session, then Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani expressed his appreciation to (former chief nuclear negotiator) Hassan Rohani for deceiving the IAEA for the past 22 months, and diverting the attention of the international bodies away from the Arak site,” Masomeh Bolurchi told reporters.

“Shamkhani reiterated that under no circumstances would this project be prevented. He assessed that progress in building this site was a major achievement of the regime in the nuclear field,” added the NCRI’s chief representative in Germany.

The NCRI, which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, has accurately reported on hidden nuclear sites in Iran in the past and accuses the Islamic republic’s leaders of secretly developing atomic weapons.

In August 2002, the group revealed the existence of the Arak heavy water facility and a massive underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, both of which Tehran later declared to the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.

Bolurchi said that at the Iranian officials’ meeting, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadheh, expressed satisfaction “that unlike the Natanz site, where progress has stalled, the IAEA has not intervened to stop the advancement of this project.”

IAEA officials were not immediately available for comment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been investigating Iran’s atomic plans for nearly three years. Although it has uncovered many hidden sites and activities, it has found no hard proof Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons.

SUSPICIONS OF IRANIAN BOMB PLANS

Washington and the European Union suspect Tehran wants nuclear weapons, but Iran insists its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

The EU has called on Iran to scrap its heavy water project. However, halting work at Arak was not officially part of the suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which could produce bomb-grade uranium, agreed in Paris in November 2004.

Tehran withdrew from part of the Paris Agreement last week when it removed U.N. seals and restarted its uranium processing plant at a site near Isfahan last week.

France, Britain and Germany have threatened to help refer Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions, if its does not resume the suspension at Isfahan by the time the IAEA board of governors meets next month.

In March, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based think-tank, said satellite photos showed the Arak plant for the production of heavy water, used in heavy-water reactors, was nearly complete.

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