An exiled Iranian opposition group said yesterday it had information about what it said was a centre for nuclear weaponisation research in Tehran that the government was moving to avoid detection ahead of negotiations with world powers.

The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. But analysts say it has a mixed track record and a clear political agenda.

An accusation it made in July about a secret underground nuclear site under construction in Iran drew a cautious international response, while the United States expressed scepticism about another claim in 2010.

The NCRI’s announcement comes days before Iran and six world powers are to meet in Geneva to try to end years of deadlock over the nuclear programme, with hopes of a breakthrough raised by the election of a relatively moderate president in Iran, Hassan Rouhani. Iran denies conducting any nuclear weapons work.

The Paris-based NCRI, citing information from sources inside Iran, said a nuclear weaponisation research and planning centre it called SPND was being moved to a large, secure site in a defence ministry complex in Tehran about 1.5 kilometres away from its former location.

It said the centre employed about 100 researchers, engineers and experts and conducted small-scale experiments with radioa-ctive material.

“There is a link between this transfer and the date of Geneva (talks) because the regime needed to avoid the risk of visits by (UN nuclear) inspectors,” Mehdi Abrichamtchi, who compiled the NCRI report, told a news conference in Paris.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, declined to comment.

A Western nuclear expert, Mark Fitzpatrick, said he did not find the NCRI’s allegation credible and that US intelligence agencies continued to believe that Iran was “still keeping most of its weaponisation efforts under ice”. (Reuters)

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