By JPOST.COM STAFF, AP
Iran's nuclear chief, Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, reiterated on Tuesday that the Islamic republic will not discuss its "nuclear rights" at the upcoming meeting with the six world powers in Geneva on Thursday.
"We are not going to discuss anything related to our nuclear rights, but we can discuss disarmament, we can discuss non-proliferation and other general issues," Salehi, who heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Salehi said that his country built its newly revealed uranium enrichment facility inside a mountain and next to a military site to ensure continuity of its nuclear activities in case of an attack.
"The new site is part of our rights and there is no need to discuss it," he reportedly said, adding that Iran would not abandon its nuclear activities "even for a second."
Salehi said the site near the holy city of Qom was next to an ammunition depot controlled by the elite Revolutionary Guards, Iran's most powerful military force. He said the only connection between the Qom nuclear facility and the Guards was that the Guards would protect it against possible attacks.
"This site is at the base of a mountain and was selected on purpose in a place that would be protected against aerial attack. That's why the site was chosen adjacent to a military site," Salehi told a news conference.
"It was intended to safeguard our nuclear facilities and reduce the cost of [an] active defense system. If we had chosen another site, we would have had to set up another aerial defense system."
Details about the newly revealed site, and the fact that Iran kept its construction secret for years, have raised more suspicion among experts and Western governments that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons - something Teheran has long denied.
Salehi said the site was selected after a careful study by the authorities and will be open to inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog. He said Iran was in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency to set a timetable "soon" for a visit.
He gave the location of the site as about 100 kilometers south of capital Teheran on the road leading to Qom. That is, about 30 kilometers north of Qom. He dismissed a statement by Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday that the facility was near the village of Fordo, which is about 30 kilometers south of Qom.
A satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and GeoEye shows a well-fortified facility built into a mountain about 30 kilometers northeast of Qom, with ventilation shafts and a nearby surface-to-air missile site, according to defense consultancy IHS Jane's, which did the analysis of the imagery. The image was taken in September.
GlobalSecurity.org analyzed images from 2005 and January 2009 when the site was in an earlier phase of construction, and believes the facility is not underground but was instead cut into a mountain. It is constructed of heavily reinforced concrete and is about the size of a football field - large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges used to refine uranium.
var cont = `Stay Informed
As the war against Hamas unfolds, our unwavering newsroom remains committed to covering Israel's most profound crisis.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real-time news and in-depth analysis from our top reporters.