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. Iran denies running secret nuclear site
TEHRAN (AFP) Nov 18, 2004
Iran on Thursday angrily denied allegations by an exiled opposition group that it was running a secret nuclear bomb facility near Tehran, and indicated that UN inspectors would be allowed to visit the site.

"I totally deny these allegations. This site is not a nuclear site and has nothing to do with our nuclear activities. Iran has no undeclared nuclear activities," top diplomat and nuclear negotiator Hossein Moussavian told AFP.

An Iranian opposition group, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, alleged this week that Iran is hiding a uranium enrichment facility near Tehran and aims to get the atomic bomb next year.

But Moussavian said Iran has already "declared all our nuclear sites and all our nuclear activities" to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We have always responded positively to the agency's inspections requests. We have always cooperated," Moussavian said when asked if IAEA inspectors could visit the alleged secret site.

However he also said that "it is not good for the agency to be played and manipulated by a well-known terrorist group".

The NCRI is the political arm of the Iraq-based People's Mujahedeen, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organisation.

Its claims came after Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment activities in order to defuse international concern about its nuclear programme -- seen by the United States as a cover for a weapons drive.

Tehran asserts that it only wants to generate atomic energy in order to meet booming domestic power demand and free up its vast oil and gas resources for export.

Senior NCRI member Farid Soleimani told a press conference in Vienna on Wednesday that the Iranian military was hiding an enrichment site in northeast Tehran.

He also claimed the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan who has admitted to running an international nuclear smuggling network, had delivered bomb designs and weapons-grade uranium to Iran.

Pakistan has already dismissed the claim as "highly exaggerated".

But the NCRI has in the past been instrumental in exposing sensitive Iranian nuclear activities: in 2002 it revealed two key nuclear sites Iran had been hiding, including an uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz, which the IAEA subsequently investigated.

Iran has also come under fresh fire from the United States, with US Secretary of State Colin Powell saying Wednesday that Washington had information that Iran is seeking to adapt its missiles to carry nuclear warheads.

"I have seen some information that would suggest that they've been actively working on delivery systems to deliver it," Powell said.

Iran's has been rapidly advancing on its ballistic missile programme, and already claims to have arch-enemy Israel well within range.

The IAEA has been investigating US fears for over two years and is to decide on the Iranian dossier in Vienna on November 25. While it has found plenty of activity deemed suspicious, inspectors have not stumbled across a "smoking gun".

In a related development, an Iranian judiciary official was quoted as saying that four people accused of spying on the country's nuclear programme for foreign governments have gone on trial.

The official did not identify the accused, say when they were arrested nor specify which coutries they were allegedly spying for.

In August, Iran's Intelligence Minister Ali Yunessi announced the arrest of a number of "spies" who sent information on Iran's nuclear programme to foreigners, and hinted they were connected with the People's Mujahedeen.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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