Arak plant, Iran 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
DUBAI - Iran denied on Friday an exiled opposition group's allegation that the Islamic state was secretly building a new underground nuclear facility.
The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said on Thursday it had obtained "reliable" information about a tunnel complex under construction in a mountainous area near the town of Damavand, east of the capital Tehran.
"This news is in no way true and is denied," Mehr News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi as saying.
The Islamic Republic says its nuclear energy program is entirely peaceful and rejects US and Israeli accusations that it is seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons.
The Paris-based NCRI exposed Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. But analysts say it has a mixed track record and a political agenda.
Its new allegation drew a cautious international response on Thursday: the UN nuclear watchdog and France - one of six world powers trying to diplomatically resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran - merely said they would look into the matter.
The NCRI, which seeks an end to Islamist theocratic rule in Iran, is the political wing of the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), which fought alongside Saddam Hussein's forces in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
"These claims are a continuation of the story-telling of the bankrupt (PMOI) group," Araqchi said, adding the "terrorist" organization lacked credibility.
The NCRI did not specify what kind of atomic activity it believed would be carried out at the alleged new facility once complete.
Iran said in 2009 it planned to build 10 more uranium enrichment sites on top of its underground Natanz and Fordow plants, alarming the West as it could enable Tehran to faster produce material which can have both civilian and military uses.
Tehran's refusal to curb sensitive nuclear activity, and its lack of full openness with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, have drawn tough Western sanctions and a threat of pre-emptive military strikes by Israel.