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Iran Threatened With More Sanctions After Revealing Secret Enrichment Plant

By Ron Synovitz, RFE/RL

The leaders of the United States, France, and Britain have condemned Tehran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility in violation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed earlier today that Tehran has admitted the existence of a second uranium-enrichment facility in Iran, in addition to the one at Natanz. The disclosure came in the form of a letter sent on September 21 to IAEA chief Muhammad El-Baradei.

Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility. An August IAEA report said Iran had set up more than 8,000 centrifuges to produce enriched uranium at Natanz.


Standing beside British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh today, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Iran to immediately open the covert facility to UN nuclear inspectors.

"The existence of this facility underscores Iran's continuing unwillingness to meet its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA requirements," Obama said. "We expect the IAEA to immediately investigate this disturbing information and to report to the IAEA board of governors."

Obama said Iran has a right to develop peaceful nuclear power. But he said the size and configuration of the newly disclosed facility is not consistent with Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is aimed only at developing nuclear energy.

"Iran must comply with UN Security Council resolutions and make clear it is willing to meet its responsibilities as a member of the community of nations," Obama said. "We have offered Iran a clear path toward greater international integration if it lives up to its obligations, and that offer stands. But the Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions, or be held accountable to international standards and international law."

British Prime Minister Brown said the United States, France, and the United Kingdom are "at one" in the belief that Iran's nuclear program is "the most urgent proliferation challenge" that the world faces today.

"The level of deception by the Iranian government and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments will shock and anger the whole international community and it will harden our resolve," Brown told the G-20 summit. "Confronted by the serial deception of many years, the international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand."

Sarkozy also accused Tehran of committing a serious violation of UN resolutions that has strengthened suspicions that it is trying to build nuclear weapons.

The three leaders stressed that Tehran should expect further international isolation -- including a possible fourth round of UN sanctions -- if it does not disclose all details about its nuclear program to the international community by October 1.

Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, explains that Iran is obliged under its nuclear safeguards agreement to report to the IAEA the planning of facilities like the uranium enrichment plant.

Fitzpatrick told RFE/RL that the presence of a second Iranian enrichment plant should have been disclosed by Tehran long ago.

"I've long expected that Iran had another enrichment plant at some undisclosed location," Fitzpatrick said. "It stands to reasons that Iran eventually would have to bring this to light."

Fitzpatrick said Iran is obliged under its safeguards agreement to report to the IAEA the planning of facilities like a uranium enrichment plant. But Iran unilaterally withdrew its obligation.

"Iran a few years ago unilaterally withdrew its obligation to make such initial reporting," he told RFE/RL. "I think Iran is way behind in reporting this facility. It will be very interesting to learn more about it -- how far advanced it is and what its purpose was."

Meanwhile, an exiled Iranian opposition group in France has released satellite images and details about what it claims are two sites in Iran that are used to research and build nuclear weapons. It is the National Council of Resistance of Iran -- a political arm of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran).

Experts say the group's claims could not immediately be verified. The IAEA is investigating the information.

The Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations for its past activities. Iran and Iraq also consider the Mujahedin-e-Khalq to be a terrorist group. But the group says it has changed and is now peaceful.

Fitzpatrick says the Mujahedin-e-Khalq has some credibility because of "stunning and very useful revelations" it has made about Iran's nuclear program in the past.

"They were the ones who broke the news about Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz and its research reactor at Araq back in 2002," Fitzpatrick said. "That's what led to the unraveling of Iran's secret program."

"But the MEK has also made some allegations about other aspects of Iran's program which have not proven to be true. So its record is mixed," Fitzpatrick continued. "These latest revelations we have to take with some grain of salt -- and not automatically believe them -- but not dismiss them either."

Fitzpatrick said the exiled Iranian opposition group's claims also bolster allegations from Washington, London, and Paris that Tehran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons.

"The world's focus is on Iran and its march to acquire the capability for a nuclear weapon," he concluded. "It is not surprising that more information would be coming out from various sources about Iran's plans because so much of what they are doing is still opaque -- if not totally secret. There has been a lot of interest and concern about what else they may be up to."

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told "The Washington Post" on September 24 that he is offering to let Iranian nuclear scientists meet with nuclear experts from foreign powers, including the United States.

Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Related Story:

Iran announces nascent nuclear enrichment plant

Press TV - In line with its guarantee to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for clarity on its nuclear activities, Iran has informed the agency that it is constructing a second plant for uranium enrichment.

"I can confirm that on 21 September, Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country," agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire said Friday.

According to the spokesman, the letter underlined that the enrichment level in the plant would only be up to 5 percent.

... Payvand News - 09/25/09 ... --

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