Friday, September 28, 2007
Russia seeks to delay Tehran sanctions: France
PARIS: An Iranian resistance group claimed on Thursday that Iran is constructing a secret, new underground military nuclear facility near its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
The claim, made by the National Council of Resistance of Iran at a Paris news conference, could not be independently verified. The group said it has passed its information, which it said came from sources inside Iran, to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, but has so far not received a response. Officials at the IAEA said they would have no comment on the claims.
The opposition group claimed that the site is 5 kilometres south of the Natanz plant, under a mountain called Siah Kooh, which it said would help protect it from any air strike. It said the site includes two tunnels with entrances 6 meters in diameter and that a third tunnel links the alleged facility to Natanz.
The group said the site has been under construction since late 2006 and that it believed it would be completed within six months. The group offered few details about what activities might be planned for the site, saying it did not know exactly. Nor did it offer concrete evidence to back up its claims. The group is the political arm of the People’s Mujahadeen Organisation of Iran, a group that Washington and the European Union list as a terrorist organisation. It has a mixed record of accuracy.
Five years ago it disclosed information about two hidden nuclear sites, including Natanz in central Iran that helped uncover nearly two decades of covert Iranian atomic activity and sparked the present fears that Tehran wants to build a bomb.
But much of the information it has presented since then to backup claims that Iran has a secret weapons programme has not been publicly verified. Iran faces international pressure to halt its nuclear programme, which the US and other nations insist is aimed at trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran adamantly denies the charge, saying the programme has civilian aims only.
Iran is already subject to two UN sanctions resolutions as well as a growing number of financial penalties from individual nations, but China and Russia have been reluctant to agree to a new UN resolution.
Meanwhile, French foreign minister said on Thursday that Russia is unlikely to support new UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme until after the UN atomic watchdog’s latest study of Iran’s activities, which may not be completed until December.
“I think it would very difficult to convince the Russians and the Chinese before (then),” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said at a breakfast with reporters. “For the time being it is difficult to foresee,” said Kouchner, who said he had spent hours trying in vain to persuade Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to join western states in a new round of tighter sanctions against Iran.
Iran last month agreed to explain the scope of its nuclear programme to the International Atomic Energy Agency, but critics say the deal allows Tehran to address issues one by one in along-drawn-out process which could last until December.
The United States, France and other allies want the UN Security Council to agree tougher sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is cover for bomb making. Iran says its programme is for generating nuclear power.
‘Iran building new nuclear site’