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'Secret' Iran nuke plant, as probe begins

From David Ensor
CNN National Security Correspondent

A satellite image of the Natanz nuclear plant
A satellite image of the Natanz nuclear plant

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The National Council of Resistance of Iran claims it has found another secret nuclear facility. CNN's David Ensor reports.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A delegation from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Mohammed ElBaradei, is scheduled to visit a nuclear facility in Iran this weekend, as questions are being raised about the possibility of another nuclear plant.

The IAEA team will visit a site near Natanz, about 200 miles south of Tehran. Iran has confirmed it has constructed a nuclear plant at this site.

But Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the U.N., has told CNN in the past that the Iranian nuclear program -- including the facilities at Natanz -- are entirely for the peaceful production of nuclear power.

The IAEA will be asking Iran to prove it.

"It's an opportunity for Iran to really open up and come clean about all its nuclear activities, which we now know are very extensive, or it could be a weekend where there's a serious confrontation between the inspectors and the Iranian government," said David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security.

Meanwhile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran -- which said last year it had evidence that Iran was secretly building a nuclear program in two locations -- has claimed it has found yet another secret nuclear facility.

"The site is under cover of a company called Cala Electric. It has been registered as a watchmaking company," said Soona Samsami, an NCRI spokeswoman.

The Iranian opposition group said the so-called watch-making factory east of Tehran contains equipment for testing centrifuges needed to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. U.S. officials declined comment on the report.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami recently confirmed the nation has uranium reserves and is mining them.

The Iranian opposition group claims one building contains additional machinery for testing centrifuge machines, and predicted the IAEA representatives will not be allowed in that particular establishment.

"If the IAEA is denied access to a building, it will be a very serious matter," Albright said.

When the NCRI initially talked about the first two nuclear facilities, U.S. intelligence officials later confirmed much of the information and satellite photos of the two sites under construction were first broadcast on CNN.

Iran's nuclear ambitions will also be a major topic of discussion as Undersecretary of State John Bolton visits Moscow early next week. The United States is trying to convince the Russians to cut back their assistance to Iran's nuclear program.


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