- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

A leading Iranian exile opposition group yesterday charged that Tehran is forging ahead with nuclear-weapons development, despite warnings from the United States and the U.N. nuclear agency to stay within international nonproliferation boundaries.

“Uninterrupted, Iran’s clerics would be able to get their hands on a nuclear bomb by the year 2005,” warned the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

The opposition group, also known as the People’s Mujahideen, said the clerical regime has activated a secret new nuclear-development site in the past six months, designed to supplement the nuclear-fuel enrichment facility in Natanz.

“The Iranian regime, more vigorously than ever, is continuing its effort to acquire nuclear weapons,” said spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh.

Tehran, he insisted, “is heading all-out to gain access to nuclear weapons.”

The Kolahdouz complex just north of the capital, Tehran, the NCRI spokesman told reporters, is affiliated with Iran’s Defense Industry Organization, contrary to claims by the government that its nuclear program has only peaceful objectives.

Though designated by the State Department as an international terrorist organization and lately discredited for its longtime ties to Saddam Hussein’s ousted Iraqi regime, the People’s Mujahideen has in the past accurately reported new information on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Its past revelations have prompted sharper International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigations into Iran’s nuclear activities.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, departing for Tehran yesterday from Frankfurt, Germany, expressed optimism that Iran would eventually accept tougher inspections of its nuclear facilities.

“If they think this through, they will see it is very much in their interest to take the first step,” Mr. ElBaradei told Reuters news agency.

He was referring to an amendment, often referred to as an additional protocol, to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the IAEA is pressing Iran to sign.

Mr. Jafarzadeh, however, said the Iranian regime has hidden much of its nuclear bomb-making capacity from outsiders.

He said Iran has hidden a new site near a riverbank close to the Kolahdouz military complex.

“This acts as a pilot facility, and the information shows that they have obtained the needed material and they intend to do the testing of the centrifuge equipments to enrich uranium,” he said.

Citing information gleaned from NCRI’s network of spies in Iran, Mr. Jafarzadeh claimed the site also holds “a number” of sealed containers hidden in a warehouse surrounded by a car junkyard at the Martyred Kazemi complex, belonging to the Defense Industry Organization.

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