(AP) VIENNA, Austria – Iran bought blueprints of a nuclear bomb from the same black-market network that gave Libya such diagrams and continues to enrich uranium despite a commitment to suspend the technology that can be used for atomic weapons, an Iranian opposition group said Wednesday.
Farid Soleimani, a senior official for the National Council for Resistance in Iran, said the diagram was provided by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani head of the nuclear network linked to clandestine programs in both Iran and Libya.
“He gave them the same weapons design he gave the Libyans as well as more in terms of weapons design,” Soleimani told reporters in Vienna. He said the diagram and related material on how to make nuclear weapons was handed to the Iranians between 1994 and 1996.
Mark Gwozdecky, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said, “we follow up every solid lead,” but added the U.N. nuclear watchdog would have no further comment.
A diplomat familiar with the agency and its investigations into Libya’s and Iran’s nuclear programs said the IAEA has long feared that Iran might have received bomb-making blueprints from Khan.
“The IAEA has found that Iran received pretty much the same things Libya did from his network,” said the diplomat, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. “The one thing that they have not been able to find was the blueprint.”
Libya bought engineers’ drawings of a Chinese-made bomb through the Khan network as part of a covert nuclear program that it renounced last year.
Iran says it does not have such drawings, and no evidence has been found to dispute that claim. But experts say it is possible that Iran possesses a copy.
Former U.N. nuclear inspector David Albright earlier this year described the Chinese design that Libya owned up to having as something “that would not take a lot of modifying” to fit it on Iran’s successfully tested Shahab-3 ballistic missile.
The opposition group made its claim days after Iran announced it would suspend all activities related to nuclear enrichment as part of an agreement with three European nations aimed at heading off a confrontation over its nuclear program.
Soleimani said centrifuges and other equipment needed to produce enriched uranium had been covertly moved from a facility at Lavizan-Shian to a nearby site within Tehran’s city limits.
The opposition group says Lavizan-Shian was home to the Center for Readiness and New Defense Technology and was part of the covert attempt to develop nuclear weapons.
The diplomat said the IAEA was looking into the possibility equipment was moved from Lavizan-Shian to an unknown location.
A report detailing IAEA investigations into Iran’s nuclear programs prepared for the agency’s Nov. 25 board meeting notes that Iran has failed to produce a trailer that apparently contained nuclear equipment at Lavizan-Shian for IAEA inspection.
The IAEA report also said Iran has “declined to provide a list of equipment used” at Lavizan-Shian, which the government says was home to research on how to reduce casualties in case of nuclear attack.
“The agency investigation of Lavizan … is still open,” said the diplomat. “They are still pursuing what happened to the equipment at Lavizan.”
Refering to the new, secret location, Soleimani said that “as we speak, the site continues to produce (enriched) uranium” and said it “is not the only one that is being kept secret.”
“There is a huge network devoted to this activity in Iran, and unfortunately the IAEA has hitherto understood the apparatus in only a small way,” he said.
Soleimani’s organization is the political wing of the People’s Mujahedeen, or Mujahedeen Khalq, banned in the United States as a terrorist organization. While much of its information has not been confirmed, it was instrumental in 2002 in revealing Iran’s enrichment program at Natanz.
Enrichment at low levels generates fuel for nuclear power — and Iran says that is its sole interest. But the United States and other countries suspect Iran wants to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium for nuclear warheads.
Lavizan-Shian was razed by the Iranian government earlier this year as IAEA inspectors prepared to visit it. The government says it was destroyed to make way for a park. But suspicions remain about the extent of the work done there — including the removal of top soil, which reduced the effectiveness of environmental samples taken by IAEA inspectors looking for unreported nuclear activity at the site.
The IAEA says it will start monitoring Iran’s commitment to halt enrichment activities starting early next week.
The suspension pledge reduced U.S. hopes of having the board refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for alleged violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Under the agreement, Tehran is to suspend all uranium enrichment in return for European guarantees that Iran has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program. The suspension holds only until a comprehensive agreement is sealed, but European diplomats hope the freeze will turn into a long-term arrangement.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called the agreement a “great victory” but said Wednesday that Tehran won’t respect its commitment if Europeans fail to support his country at the IAEA board meeting.
“If the IEAE board of governors adopts a correct decision, it will be a step in the direction that will give us more hope that our rights will be exercised,” Khatami said.
“If we see that they don’t keep their promise, it’s natural that we won’t fulfill our promise,” he said.