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Context of 'March 24, 2005: Iranian With Conservative Ties Claims Iran Has Large Underground Nuclear Site'

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The British government adds 25 groups to its list of organizations whose assets it wants to freeze as part of the fight against terrorism. The list includes the Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization (MEK), but not the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an organization that is later tied to MEK and included on the US list of terrorist organizations in August 2004 (see August 15, 2003). (BBC 11/2/2001)

On order of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control freezes the financial assets of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which a State Department official says functions “as a part of the MEK [Mujahedeen-e Khalq].” Powell’s order also calls for the closure of the organization’s two offices in Washington. NCRI has hitherto enjoyed the support of several US legislators. (Gollust 8/15/2003; Dunphy 8/15/2003) Powell’s order amends Executive Order 13224 on terrorist financing (US Department of State 8/15/2003) , issued on September 23, 2001, which blocked the assets of organizations and individuals that US authorities believe are linked to terrorism. (US President 9/23/2002)

The New York Times reports that according to unnamed diplomats, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes that satellite photographs indicate Iran may be testing high explosives and that procurement records suggest Iran may have the equipment necessary for making bomb-grade uranium. (China Daily 12/2/2004) This information was reportedly provided by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) an alleged front group for the Iranian resistance group and designated terrorist organization Mujahedeen-e Khalq. (BBC 11/18/2004) UN diplomats tell Reuters that inspectors for the IAEA would like to inspect Iranian military sites at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, and Lavizan II, in northeastern Tehran. However, the IAEA is not permitted to inspect those sites because it only has legal authority to visit sites where there are declared civilian nuclear programs. (China Daily 12/2/2004) Five buildings in Parchin will later be inspected by the IAEA in January 2005 (see Mid-January 2005).

Iran allows International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit five buildings at the Parchin military site in response to US allegations that Iran has used the site to test explosives components for a nuclear bomb. Other buildings in the area, and four other areas at the Parchin site that the agency has identified as being of potential interest, remain off limits to inspectors. During their visit, the inspectors take samples to test for the presence of nuclear activity. (BBC 1/5/2005; Weekend Australian 1/13/2005; BBC 1/19/2005; Dell 1/19/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/28/2005)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in a statement to its 35-member board that the agency’s inspectors continue to have lingering questions about Iranian activities at the Parchin military site and that Iran has denied requests for additional visits to the complex (see Mid-January 2005). (BBC 3/1/2005) Iran claims that it is not legally required to allow further inspections at Parchin, reasoning in a February 27 note to the IAEA that the “expectation of the Safeguards Department in visiting specified zones and points in Parchin Complex are fulfilled and thus there is no justification for any additional visit.” The agency disagrees. (Bernstein 3/1/2005) Additionally, the agency says in its statement that Iran has failed to provide information on how Iran obtained its advanced P-2 centrifuge equipment. The inspectors also say they are concerned about certain dual-use technologies at the Lavisan site, which Iran is also refusing to open to inspectors. (Bernstein 3/1/2005) A Western diplomat says the statement demonstrates “another failure to disclose activities, which fits a disturbing pattern,” adding, “It’s more evidence that the Iranians are unwilling to provide full disclosure.” (Bernstein 3/1/2005) But other officials note that the statement contains no evidence that Iran has an active weapons program. “The facts don’t support an innocent or guilty verdict at this point,” one agency official observes. (Bernstein 3/1/2005)

Alireza Jafarzadeh—a former spokesman of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an organization that is listed by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization (see August 15, 2003)—says that according to “well-placed sources” within the Iranian regime, “Iran has completed an underground tunnel-like facility in Parchin, which is now engaged in laser enrichment.” Jafarzadeh, who now heads the Washington-based think-tank Strategic Policy Consulting and regularly serves as a Fox News foreign affairs analyst, also says that “the underground site is camouflaged and built in an area of Parchin that deals with the chemical industry.” It is connected to “Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” he further claims. The underground facility is reportedly located in an area known as “Plan 1.” (Fox News 2/20/2005; Charbonneau 3/24/2005; Jahn 3/24/2005; Seattle Times 3/25/2005) Iran has refused to give inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unfettered access to Parchin (see March 1, 2005), and the US alleges that Iran is testing explosive devices there that could be used in nuclear weapons.

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