- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2013

An Iranian opposition group that’s been exiled from the nation claimed Monday that Tehran has built a secret underground nuclear facility that’s key to its developing atomic weapons program.

The shocking claim reported by Ynet News comes as Iran and the heads of six global powers are set to meet this week and resume talks about Tehran’s nuclear program — a controversial topic that has seen the international community impose tighter sanctions on the country, even while Iranian leaders continue to deny their nuclear enrichment is for anything but peaceable purposes.

The talks, scheduled for Wednesday, are seen as one of newly seated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s first widely watched political test that will solidify — or debunk — the perception he’s tried to give as a moderate.

But amid this international swirl comes the claim from the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, PMOI, a group affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran that members have proof of a secret site set up by the regime, for nuclear purposes, Ynet News reported. The group could not detail what type of nuclear activity was taking place at the site — but the NCRI has a history of honest reporting. This is the group that exposed Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2002, along with a related heavy-water facility, named Arak.

At the same time, other analysts say the NCRI has made several allegations about Iran’s nuclear-related activities that have proven untrue — and that members have a blatant bias, in that they clearly want a regime change in the nation.

Still, the report has sparked international interest and investigation.

“According to specific information obtained by the Iranian resistance, the clerical regime is establishing or completing parallel secret and undeclared sites for its nuclear project,” said NCRI’s Mehdi Abrichamtchi in the Ynet News report.

The group said Iran’s secret site was located inside a sizeable tunnel underneath mountains that are located about six miles from the town of Mobarekeh. That puts it within the borders of Iran’s existing military industrial complex, at Haft-e Tir.

Mr. Abrichamtchi said officials started to construct the facility in 2005. The tunnels were completed by 2009, and construction on the actual facility finished just recently, he said, in Ynet News. He also said the group has sent its evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency for further investigation. Ynet News said the IAEA did not have immediate comment.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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