Iran: Blacklisted terror group fabricated nuke allegations

UN envoy says baseless information provided to IAEA came from Iranian exile group that helped Saddam Hussein during war.

Khazee 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Khazee 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran's UN ambassador on Sunday accused a group on the US terror blacklist of fabricating allegations that Iran tried to make nuclear weapons in the 1990s. Ambassador Mohammad Khazee insisted that Teheran has resolved all outstanding issues about its nuclear program and should not face any new UN sanctions. He indicated that the United States was getting unreliable intelligence from Iranian opposition groups. The government believes "baseless" information provided to the UN nuclear watchdog agency by the US just a few days before its latest report came from an Iranian exile group that helped Saddam Hussein during the war, he said. "I'm afraid to say that, according to my information, some of these allegations were produced or fabricated by a terrorist group, which are listed as a terrorist group in the United States and somewhere else in Europe," Khazee said in an interview with The Associated Press. He appeared to be referring to the The Mujahedeen Khalq, also known as the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, who were deemed foreign terrorist organizations by the US State Department in 1997. Last June, the European Union decided to keep the Paris-based opposition group on its terror blacklist. Khazee said that in the wake of Friday's report from UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei and Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA should now be solely responsible for dealing with Iran's nuclear issues - and the Security Council should avoid inflicting any new sanctions on the country. But US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the IAEA report provides "very strong" grounds for the Security Council to move ahead quickly with a third round of sanctions. She cited the government's refusal to suspend enrichment - as the council has demanded - and its failure to respond credibly to US allegations that Iran conducted weapons research into high explosives and missile design in the 1990s. Khazee disputed Rice's statement, saying the IAEA had raised six issues in response to claims by a few countries concerned about its nuclear activities, and ElBaradei's report said "all the outstanding issues are resolved." "Iran has been cooperating with the IAEA more seriously and more sincerely and beyond its obligation, so somebody should ask the secretary of state where these questions come from," he said. Asked when he believed Iranian exiles on the US terror list were responsible, he said, "you can see it all over the news, even recently. They said OK, we are going to produce another piece of information." When the IAEA raised the US allegations, on Feb. 15, Khazee said the government decided to answer as a gesture of "good will" even though it did not fall into the scope of the six issues Iran was required to address. The IAEA report noted that Iran had rejected documents that link it to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program, calling the information false and irrelevant. Iran insists that its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing electricity, and insists it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium. The US, key European nations and others believe that Iran's real aim is to produce nuclear weapons. The Iranian government confirmed Sunday that it has begun operating a new generation of IR-2 centrifuges which can enrich uranium at more than double the rate of the older machines. When asked why the government needed the new machines, and whether it was concerned that their use raised new questions about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Khazee replied with two questions: As an NPT signatory, Iran is allowed to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, so why should it not? And if there is concern about Iranian ambitions and future activities, should it not be the IAEA, and not the Security Council, that monitors its activities? "By taking the Iranian nuclear issue to the Security Council and ignoring all the Iranian cooperation with the agency, and again asking to have punitive measures at the Security Council, the big question is then: Do we undermine the credibility of this agency that is supposed to monitor the nuclear activitiy of all the countries or not?," Khazee asked. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday the IAEA report vindicated Iran and warned that Teheran would take unspecified "decisive reciprocal measures" against any country that imposed additional sanctions against Iran. Asked what those measures might be, Khazee said: "Definitely, it's not the matter of military action by Iran to any country. But there are some other elements that give Iran (the) upper hand in the region - economically, politically - to defend its right." As for US-Iranian relations under a new US president next year, he said, "The most important issue, I believe, is to have a real picture, an impression about the Islamic Republic of Iran's power as well as constructive role in the region." "I believe whoever understand that, they will think about having a better attitude vis a vis the great Iranian nation as well as the government and the Islamic Republic," Khazee said. Iran may have continued work on nuclear weapons past 2003, the year US intelligence says such activities stopped, a senior British diplomat said Monday. Simon Smith, the chief British delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, commented after an IAEA presentation of documentation that - if accurate - would strongly back US claims that Iran at one point worked on programs linked to attempts to make nuclear weapons. That assertion was also made by a US National Intelligence Estimate, summarized and made public late last year said. That report also said, however, that the Iranians froze such work in 2003. Asked whether the information presented to the IAEA's 35 board member nations indicated that Teheran continued such activities past that date, Smith said: "Certainly some of the dates ... went beyond 2003." He did not elaborate. Another diplomat at the presentation, who asked for anonymity because the IAEA meeting was closed, said some of the documentation focused on a 2004 Iranian report on alleged weapons activities. But she said it was unclear whether the project was being actively worked on then. A senior diplomat inside the meeting said that among the material shown was an Iranian video depicting mock-ups of a missile re-entry vehicle. He said IAEA Director General Oli Heinonen suggested the component - which brings missiles back from the stratosphere - was configured in a way that strongly suggests it was meant to carry a nuclear warhead. Smith and the senior diplomat both said the material shown to the board members came from a "multitude of sources," including information gathered by the agency and intelligence provided by the members themselves. IAEA, the UN nuclear monitor, released a report last week saying that suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest. But the report also noted that Iran had rejected documents that link it to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program, calling the information false and irrelevant. The report called weaponization "the one major ... unsolved issue relevant to the nature of Iran's nuclear program." Most of the material shown to Iran by the IAEA on alleged attempts to make nuclear arms came from Washington, though some was provided by US allies, diplomats told the AP. The agency shared it with Teheran only after the nations gave their permission.