Reuters: Iran obtained weapons-grade uranium and a nuclear bomb design from a Pakistani scientist who has admitted to selling nuclear secrets abroad, says an exiled Iranian opposition group. The group, which has given accurate information before, also said Iran is secretly enriching uranium at a military site previously unknown to the United Nations, despite promising France, Britain and Germany that it would halt all such work. Reuters
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA – Iran obtained weapons-grade uranium and a nuclear bomb design from a Pakistani scientist who has admitted to selling nuclear secrets abroad, says an exiled Iranian opposition group.
The group, which has given accurate information before, also said Iran is secretly enriching uranium at a military site previously unknown to the United Nations, despite promising France, Britain and Germany that it would halt all such work.
“(Abdul Qadeer) Khan gave Iran a quantity of HEU (highly enriched uranium) in 2001, so they already have some,” Farid Soleiman, a senior spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told reporters on Wednesday.
“I would doubt it was given enough for a weapon,” he added.
Soleiman said Khan, who ran a global nuclear black market until it was shut down earlier this year, also gave Iran a Chinese-developed warhead design sometime between 1994 and 1996.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Khan’s network gave Libya the bomb design and is trying to find out whether Iran got it too. There is no proof it did.
A Pakistani military spokesman did not comment: “We are not responding to every allegation that comes through the media.”
“If true, it’s significant,” an EU diplomat said.
IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said the IAEA followed up “every solid lead”. That will not be easy, because the U.N. agency has been denied access to Khan, who is under house arrest in Pakistan.
Diplomats in Vienna say the NCRI has been the best source of information on Tehran’s undeclared nuclear programme.
Washington also accuses Iran of secretly developing atomic weapons. Tehran denies the charge.
The NCRI is listed by Washington as a terrorist group. The EU has promised to do the same under its nuclear deal with Iran.
The group established its reputation as a whistleblower in August 2002 when it revealed an undeclared enrichment plant at Natanz and another site at Arak. It has revealed other sites.
IRAN ENRICHING URANIUM “AS WE SPEAK”
The NCRI said Iran was enriching uranium, purifying it for use for fuel or bombs, at a site in northeastern Tehran under a covert arms programme.
“It continues to enrich uranium as we speak,” Soleiman said. He said the site had an unknown number of centrifuges, which purify uranium by spinning at supersonic speeds.
“There are more sites involving uranium enrichment in Iran,” he said, adding their locations needed verification.
Soleiman said Iran wanted a bomb by the middle of next year. Israel estimates Iran will be “nuclear capable” in 2007.
Iran promised the European Union on Sunday to freeze its enrichment programme, sparing it a referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions and opening the door to political and economic “carrots” France, Britain and Germany are offering.
Soleiman said the enrichment site, called the Centre for the Development of Advanced Defence Technology, was run by the Defence Ministry and located in Lavizan, near where the United States suspects Iran conducted secret nuclear work before demolishing all the buildings and carting off the rubble.
Soleiman said equipment from Lavizan was moved to the new enrichment site to hide it. He said the NCRI sent the IAEA a letter about the 60-acre top-secret site a few days ago.
The IAEA said in a new report on its two-year investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme that Iran had not diverted declared nuclear materials to a weapons programme, but did not rule out that secret atomic activities existed.