REGION: Iran denies troops running N-project
* Foreign ministry rejects accusations of exiled opposition group
* Asefi says group resorts to propaganda to guarantee its survival
tehran Hardline troops are not running a secret nuclear weapons programme, Iran said on Sunday, rejecting the latest accusations from a prominent exiled opposition group.
The group last week said a special Revolutionary Guard unit was running a secret atomic weapons programme parallel to the civil programme declared by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.
When asked about this accusation from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters: “The group resorts to any deceitful remark to guarantee its survival.”
The NCRI is the political arm of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation seeking to topple the Iranian government. The Mujahideen is listed as a “terrorist organisation” by the United States and the European Union.
The NCRI has made similar revelations in the past about Iran’s nuclear facilities, which have later been confirmed by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Meanwhile, Asefi said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi will meet European leaders this week ahead of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting to review Tehran’s nuclear programme. Kharazi will hold talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana from Monday before heading to Germany and Denmark later in the week, Reza Asefi said. He said the minister wanted to “talk about Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme and the situation in the region”.
“He will also talk about Iran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and our agreement with the Europeans, and the region’s developments, especially Iraq.” Kharazi met Belgian, Italian, Irish, British and French officials in Europe almost two weeks ago, seeking their support ahead of a June meeting of the IAEA board of governors to discuss Tehran’s use of nuclear technology.
In October Iran gave the IAEA what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities but the dossier was later found to have significant omissions, including its acquisition of designs for sophisticated centrifuges that can produce weapons-grade uranium.
The IAEA board of governors passed a resolution in March that condemned Iran for failing to report crucial technologies such as the advanced centrifuge designs.
IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei returned to Vienna three weeks ago from Tehran, where he had hammered out an agreement for Iran to adhere to a timetable to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear activities. The United States claims Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons and is seeking a tougher stance against Tehran.
But under a deal struck last year, Britain, France and Germany offered to provide peaceful nuclear assistance to Iran if the IAEA cleared the country of running a secret weapons programme. agencies