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Thu 21 Feb 2008 01:55 AM

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Iran still building warheads, say dissidents

Regime is 'undoubtedly developing a nuclear bomb,' claims exiled opposition group.

Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, an exiled Iranian opposition group said Wednesday, giving details of what it claims is an operational nuclear-warhead development site.

The claims run counter to a US intelligence report released in December which said Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

That US report led to calls from Tehran, and some other quarters, for UN sanctions against the Iranian regime to be dropped.

"The Iranian regime is undoubtedly developing a nuclear bomb," said Mohammad Mohadessin, a leader of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran.

He presented reporters in Brussels with information he said had been collected on two sites in Iran on top secret studies on nuclear warheads.

A new command and control centre for the programme code-named Lavizan-2 was established last year at the Tehran suburb of Mojdeh, Mohaddessin said.

An Iranian defence ministry missile-research site at Khojir, also in Tehran, was actively developing a nuclear warhead for medium range missiles, he added.

Information had come from “hundreds” of sources including people working at the sites and within offices of the Iranian leadership, he continued.

Mohadessin said the revelations had been handed over to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Tuesday, which it urged to immediately inspect the facilities.

"We would like to urgently ask the IAEA ... to immediately send inspectors to the sites," he said.

"Time is running out to stop the regime acquiring a nuclear bomb. If we do not act today, tomorrow might be too late".

North Korean experts are cooperating with the Iranian regime in the project, the Paris-based NCRI said.

"The clerical regime (in Iran) has not ceased its nuclear weapons programme, rather it has expedited its activities and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has taken greater control of the programme," said Mohadessin, chairman of the group's foreign affairs committee.

On December 3 the US National Intelligence Estimate, which represents the consensus among all 16 US spy agencies, said the Iranian nuclear weapons program was still dormant, and Tehran's intentions unclear, but that the halt suggested Tehran was more susceptible to global pressure than had been thought.

The declassified "key findings" provided ammunition to both sides in the international dispute over the best approach to Iran, and were expected to fuel rather than quench the often bitter US debate over Iran policy ahead of the November 2008 presidential elections.

US President George W. Bush at the time warned that using force was still an option to keep Tehran from getting nuclear arms.

"Iran was dangerous. Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said at the time.

Mohadessin said Tuesday that for a while Iran had slowed down its weapons programme.

It had erased all traces of its earlier research centre in 2003 and moved over to Mojdeh, next to the Malek Ashtar university under the name "Field for Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technologies," he said, his comments accompanied by satellite photographs to back up the claims.

The group is the political wing of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, which is on the European Union's terror blacklist.