DEBKAfile reports: Accusations from Paris that Iran is building new clandestine military nuclear plant south of Natanz
September 28, 2007, 10:34 AM (GMT+02:00)
National Council of Resistance of Iran’s chairman, Mehdi Abrishamchi
The latest round of the international campaign against Iran’s covert nuclear activities is coming out of Paris, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report. A statement by President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday, Sept. 27 that he does not believe Iran’s program is peaceful was followed by a press conference at which the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s chairman, Mehdi Abrishamchi, reported Iran was constructing a new site for a secret military project 5 km south of the Natanz nuclear complex.
Sarkozy’s spokesman David Martinon said: “Ahmadinejad claims his country’s nuclear activities are peaceful. Ultimately, we do not believe him. Everyone knows that the program has military goals. We have a string of clues leading us to that conclusion. The question is not settled.”
DEBKAfile notes that, five years ago, the Americans used the same roundabout technique for making their first disclosures of Iran’s nuclear violations.
They fed the revelation that uranium enrichment was taking place at Natanz to the same resistance group, NCRI (Mujahideen Qalq), which then called a press conference in Washington and laid it before the public.
Surprisingly, this time, Tehran made its own contribution to the disclosures. The local newspaper Kayhan stated on Sept. 25: “The intelligence that the West currently has on Iran’s nuclear program is limited to sites accessible to IAEA inspectors – and more than that they do not know.”
Two days later, the NCRI went before the press in Paris with the little information he had, which nonetheless substantiated Tehran’s admission.
Iran is apparently bracing for a fresh spate of international allegations and disclosures from intelligence sources about its most secret nuclear activities for military purposes.
Abrishamchi’s seeming first installment did not specify what was going on at the new site or the nature of its contribution to Iran’s weapons program.
He located it near the small village of Abbas-Abad 5 km south of Natanz in the Siah mountain. The site, he said, consisted of a sprawling underground area with two tunnels which run under two mountains connected to Natanz. The tunnel entrance is six meters wide. Building began in 2006 and is scheduled to end in March 2008. Revolutionary Guards Brig. Gen. Tabatabi monitors progress of the work every week; it is overseen by his deputy Brig. Gen. Daneshjo.
To preserve the project’s secrecy, the NCRI chairman reported, its various sections were assigned to different agencies and units of the defense ministry and Revolutionary Guards, none of which has the whole picture.
DEBKAfile’s sources believe that just enough data were rationed out to Abrishamchi to let the Iranians know that US and French intelligence has a lot more. How much more is released will depend on Tehran’s reaction. If the clerical rulers continue to maintain like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that their program is purely for peaceful purposes and the issue is closed, more solid information on Iranian illicit undertakings is likely to be laid bare.