Iran: UN detection station a spy post

UN observatory near Ira

Iran claimed Wednesday that a newly built UN station to detect nuclear explosions was built near its border to give the West a post to spy on the country. The construction of the seismic monitoring station was completed last week in neighboring Turkmenistan, a few miles from the Iranian border. It's one of roughly 275 such stations that are operational worldwide and that can detect seismic activity set off by weak nuclear blasts and even shock waves from nuclear experiments. Abolfazl Zohrehvand, an adviser to Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, said the international treaty that allows for setting up such observatories is an "espionage treaty." "With the disclosure of the identity of such stations, it is clear the activity of one of them [in Turkmenistan] is to monitor Iran," Zohrehvand told state IRNA news agency. Zohrehvand said the UN planned to set up more than one such station around Iran. The US and some of its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program is a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying the program is geared toward generating electricity. A UN commission that seeks to ban all nuclear tests announced last week on its Web site that the new nuclear warning station has been set up between Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert and the Kopet mountain range. The Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, or CTBTO, said the station has now been fully constructed and is currently undergoing testing. Zohrehvand said the CTBTO is a "security and espionage treaty, even more dangerous" than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's additional protocol, which allows intrusive inspections of nuclear facilities in member states. Iran is a member of both the CTBTO and the NPT. In Vienna, a spokeswoman for the CTBTO said the worldwide network of sensors was established to monitor nuclear explosions worldwide - not in specific countries - and that three monitoring stations already exist in Iran itself, with two more planned inside the country. The CTBTO Web site said the three stations in Iran are located in Teheran and the southern towns of Shushtar and Kerman. The decision to build the seismic station in Turkmenistan was made between 1994 and 1996, with Iranian involvement, said Annika Thunborg, the CTBTO spokeswoman. At that time, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a relative pragmatist, was president of Iran. "The building of the station has nothing to do with recent reports about Iran," Thunborg said. "Iran is a member state of the CTBTO, together with 181 other countries, and is party to the decisions made by the CTBTO," Thunborg said. The organization plans a total of 337 stations world over. The United Nations has demanded Iran freeze uranium enrichment. Teheran insists it has a right to enrich uranium to produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity. Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as nuclear fuel but enriched to higher levels, can be used at material for a nuclear bomb. Iran and the West are deadlocked over a UN proposal for Iran to send much of its enriched uranium abroad. The plan is aimed at drastically reducing Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium in hopes of thwarting the country's ability to potentially make a nuclear weapon. So far, Iran has balked at the offer. Recently, Teheran announced it intends to build the 10 new sites - a statement that followed a strong rebuke from the UN nuclear watchdog agency.