Font Size

- Aa +

Wed 12 Dec 2007 02:15 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Iran nuke programme very much alive

Opposition figure says weaponisation 'alive and active', US intel failed to include his findings.

Iran resumed its nuclear weapons program in 2004, according to a US-based dissident who said Tuesday that US intelligence had failed to include his findings in a surprise about-face downgrading the Iranian threat.

"The weaponization program is alive, is active, and has been resumed since 2004," Iranian opposition figure Alireza Jafarzadeh told newswire AFP, contradicting the US National Intelligence Estimate released a week ago.

"The NIE was only partly right," said Jafarzadeh, formerly the US spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and author of a book released in January called "The Iran Threat."

"They (Iranians) were forced to pause in 2003 because of the tremendous pressure they were under," he said. "They suspended it to consider their next steps, and started again in 2004."

In August 2002, Jafarzadeh first reported the existence of secret Iranian nuclear sites at Natanz and Arak, prompting denunciations of Tehran by Washington and hurried inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Iranian regime maintains the NCRI is a "terrorist" front run by disaffected exiles. The group is the political wing of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, which is banned in the United States and the European Union.

Jafarzadeh was speaking as the US continued to press for a third round of UN sanctions against Iran despite the new intelligence estimate, arguing that diplomatic pressure caused Tehran to halt its program in 2003.

The NIE was a diplomatic bombshell that contradicted forceful US assertions that Iran's nuclear program was a gathering threat that raised the prospect of "World War III."

While the NIE expressed with "moderate confidence" that Iran was not now trying to build nuclear weapons, Jafarzadeh said the program had only been suspended in 2003 to evade IAEA inspections.

Under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the top-secret weapons program was in fact moved from one site at Lavizan-Shian and scattered across various underground installations in 2004, he said.

Jafarzadeh said he had shared his analysis with contacts in the US intelligence community before the NIE's publication, but suggested a "certain agenda" by some in the community anxious to downplay Iran's threat.

"We've gone back and checked every site that we knew of... since 2002 to see if any of those activities were halted in those sites," he told a press conference, presenting slides purporting to show ongoing nuclear activity.

"With the exception of Lavizan-Shian... no other site was ever shut down," the Washington-based Jafarzadeh said, arguing that the US intelligence assessment "needs to be fixed."

"I don't think the international community, I don't think the United States government can afford to make such mistakes and provide the opportunity for the mullahs to get the bomb before we all know."