Iran Building Undisclosed Enrichment Facility, Group Alleges
Global Security Newswire, September 09, 2010
Alireza Jafarzadeh, Foreign Affairs Analyst and Iran Expert
An Iranian opposition group has determined the nation is building an undisclosed uranium enrichment facility near a city roughly 75 miles from Tehran, Fox News reported today (see GSN, Sept. 8).
(Sep. 9) – Iranian opposition figure Alireza Jafarzadeh points out elements of an alleged clandestine uranium enrichment facility in Iran during a news conference today at the National Press Club in Washington (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images).
Iran began work on the Behjatabad-Abyek site roughly five years ago near the city of Qazvin, and construction is about 85 percent finished, members of the Iran Policy Committee said today, citing information obtained by the Iranian resistance group People’s Mujahedeen.
The International Atomic Energy Agency oversees activities at two other Iranian enrichment facilities in an effort to prevent diversion of resources from the sites for military activities. The United States and other nations suspect the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program is geared toward weapons development; Tehran has maintained its atomic activities are strictly peaceful.
Iranian activist Soona Samsami said the alleged facility was more significant than Iran’s Qum enrichment site, which was placed under U.N. monitoring after its existence was publicly revealed in 2009.
There is no indication that enrichment centrifuges have so far been installed in the site, speakers said (see GSN, Sept. 25, 2009; Fox News, Sept. 9).
Samsami and former National Council of Resistance of Iran spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh said they had provided data on the facility to the Obama administration and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Agence France-Presse reported (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, Sept. 9).
Obama administration sources could not say today whether the group’s assertion appeared on the level, Fox News reported. Washington intends to “study” the data, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Iranian opposition figure Alireza Jafarzadeh points out elements of an alleged clandestine uranium enrichment facility in Iran during a news conference today at the National Press Club in Washington (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images).
The People’s Mujahedeen has been a source for information about the existence of other Iranian nuclear sites.
“The MEK has made pronouncements about Iranian facilities in the past — some accurate, some not,” Crowley said (Fox News).
Meanwhile, Iran indicated it would not adopt rules allowing closer monitoring of its nuclear program if the U.N. Security Council continues efforts aimed at pressuring the government to halt elements of the atomic operations, the nation’s Press TV reported yesterday.
Yukiya Amano, IAEA director general, in a report this week reaffirmed his call for Iran to adopt the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the agency. Tehran in 2006 stopped informally abiding by the protocol, which grants IAEA inspectors greater access to information on a nation’s nuclear work and permits snap audits of its nuclear facilities.
“The IAEA is seeking implementation of Additional Protocol and Iran will not implement this protocol as long as the [Security Council] is involved in Iran’s nuclear issue. We ask the IAEA director general, Yukiya Amano, to understand this fact,” Asharq al-Awsat quoted Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the agency, as saying.
Soltanieh reaffirmed his nation’s willingness to discuss a potential exchange of Iranian uranium, blaming demands by world powers for delaying such talks.
“Such behaviors and actions have obliged Iran to supply its required enriched uranium,” Iran’s Mehr news organization quoted him as saying. Iran in February began enriching uranium to 20 percent, ostensibly for producing medical isotopes at a medical research reactor in Tehran. The United States and other Western powers, though, have feared the process could help Iran produce nuclear-weapon material, which has an enrichment level around 90 percent.
One plan — negotiated in May by Iran, Brazil and Turkey — calls for the Middle Eastern state to store 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey for one year; other countries would be expected within that period to provide nuclear material refined for the medical reactor in exchange for the Iranian material.
The arrangement appeared similar to another proposal, formulated last year by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that was intended to defer Iran’s enrichment activities long enough to more fully address U.S. and European concerns about its potential nuclear bomb-making capability. Tehran ultimately rejected the IAEA proposal worked out with France, Russia and the United States. Those nations, known as the “Vienna group,” subsequently expressed concerns about the later agreement.
Soltanieh said this week’s IAEA report does not reflect any inadequacy in Iran’s work with the monitoring agency. “Iran will continue its cooperation with the IAEA in accordance with the signed agreements and not beyond that,” he said (Press TV, Sept. 8).
Elsewhere, the Obama administration yesterday praised South Korea’s decision to adopt independent economic penalties against Iran, AFP reported. The measures announced yesterday would target 24 individuals and 102 organizations, including Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard and a bank responsible for processing most of South Korea’s exports to the Middle Eastern nation.
“These actions strengthen the growing international resolve to prevent proliferation and Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and to press Iran to return to serious negotiations on its nuclear program and meet its international obligations,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in released remarks.
“We welcome in particular the Republic of Korea’s decision to impose sanctions in a number of Iranian economic sectors that have been exploited for proliferation-related purposes by entities and individuals of concern … and the establishment of a prior authorization system for financial transactions with Iran,” the officials said in the joint statement.
“The Republic of Korea’s robust inspections framework, its prohibition on the export of strategic, controlled items and its prohibition of new investments or sale of goods, services and technology to Iran’s energy sector will also further limit Iran’s ability to conduct its illicit activities,” they said.
“Additional pressure on Iran’s leaders is essential to making clear the choice Iran faces and to achieving the goal of a diplomatic resolution,” the officials added. “The United States encourages other states to join this growing international consensus and take the necessary steps to ensure comprehensive implementation of [U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929],” the U.N. body’s fourth sanctions resolution against Iran.
South Korea’s implementation of new sanctions broadcasts “a very strong signal to Iran that not only do we continue to have concerns about the nature of its nuclear activities but we’re taking aggressive action to further isolate Iran,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said (Agence France-Presse II/Spacewar.com, Sept. 9).
“We believe that this concerted action, in terms of full implementation of 1929 as well as national steps that have been announced by the United States, by Japan, now today by Korea, will put additional pressure on Iran to, we hope, come to the table prepared to engage constructively and address the concerns the international community has,” the Yonhap News Agency quoted Crowley as saying.
State Department special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control Robert Einhorn “will be traveling soon to China,” the spokesman added. During a visit to South Korea last month, Einhorn sought Seoul’s Korea’s cooperation in placing economic pressure on Iran (see GSN, Aug. 4; Yonhap News Agency, Sept. 9).
Beijing, though, today voiced its disapproval of the penalties adopted by Seoul, AFP reported.
“We don’t approve of unilateral sanctions on Iran,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. “We hope relevant parties can stick to the direction of diplomatic resolution and seek an effective resolution through dialogue and negotiations” (Agence France-Presse III/Spacewar.com, Sept. 9).
U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) warned China against exploiting business opportunities opened as other nations have sought to isolate Iran, Foreign Policy reported. He warned that Capitol Hill would use powers provided in legislation passed in June to penalize Chinese firms that rush to do business with Tehran.
“Chinese companies have unfortunately in the past been allowed by their government to pursue their commercial self-interest in Iran, exploiting the restraint of other countries,” Lieberman said in a prepared statement. “If this trend continues, China will isolate itself from the responsible international community in Asia and around the world” (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, Sept. 8).