The National - News

Iran weapons expert worked at secret site, dissident group claims

▶ Buildings reported to have been destroyed before inspectors let in

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A leading Iranian explosives expert carried out experiment­s at a secret site at the centre of a new dispute between Tehran and the UN’s atomic watchdog, an opposition group claims.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, which helped to uncover Iran’s secret weapons programme two decades ago, said it had discovered a web of front companies and connection­s that pointed to the site in the central city of Abadeh being used for weapons research.

The group said that one of the regime’s top explosives experts, Saeed Borji, had worked there and reported directly to Mohsen Fakhrizade­h, who has been described as the godfather of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Fakhrizade­h was assassinat­ed in an Israeli operation last year as he was driven to his home outside Tehran.

The claims come after the UN’s Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency, found uranium particles at two sites it inspected after months of delays.

The UN has not identified the sites, but the opposition group said that one of them was at Abadeh.

Abadeh was first identified as a weapons site in October 2019 by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This was based on informatio­n from Iranian files stolen in a raid by Israeli agents on a storage depot on the outskirts of Tehran.

Mr Netanyahu said that Tehran destroyed buildings on the site about July 2019 after learning that tight security had been breached.

He claimed that Iran had used the site to conduct experiment­s to develop nuclear weapons.

The dissident group said on Tuesday that the site was built in the mid-1990s by companies controlled by the Islamic Revolution­ary Guard Corps and was part of a project managed by the body in charge of developing nuclear weapons.

It said that internal reports pointed to Mr Borji working at the site with two colleagues in 2011.

Internatio­nal inspectors were eventually allowed to visit the site in August last year.

US intelligen­ce agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, co-ordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003. Iran denies this.

The 2015 nuclear deal effectivel­y drew a line under that past, but Iran is still required to explain evidence of undeclared past activities or material to the IAEA.

The uranium was found during snap IAEA inspection­s at two sites in August and September.

“The discovery of uranium particles at two suspect sites demonstrat­es very clearly that the regime continues to violate the [2015] agreement,” said Robert Joseph, a former senior counter-proliferat­ion official during the presidency of George W Bush, at a briefing organised by the dissidents.

Iran has said that nuclear diplomacy could fall apart if France, Germany and the UK press ahead with a plan to condemn Tehran’s partial suspension of inspection­s from the IAEA at a meeting of the organisati­on on Friday.

It comes as the US seeks a way to rejoin the 2015 agreement, dumped by former president Donald Trump. However, it faces demands from Tehran that it first ends sanctions.

Israel said that Tehran destroyed buildings on the site after learning that tight security had been breached

 ?? AP ?? The Abadeh site, claimed to be where an expert worked on nuclear weapons, in March 2019
AP The Abadeh site, claimed to be where an expert worked on nuclear weapons, in March 2019

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