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Opposition: Iran Using Laser Enrichment

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By EDITH M. LEDERER
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 14, 2006; 8:20 PM

NEW YORK -- Iran has secretly revived a program to enrich uranium using laser technology, reportedly with favorable results, an Iranian opposition figure said Thursday citing information from members of the resistance inside the country.

Alireza Jafarzadeh said information about the laser enrichment program at Lashkar Ab'ad, about 15 miles northwest of Tehran, came from the same sources that led to his revelation in May 2003 that Iran had a clandestine nuclear program.

There was no independent confirmation of the latest information and Iran's U.N. Mission called the allegation "baseless and unfounded."

Jafarzadeh, who heads the Washington-based Strategic Policy Consulting think tank, is credited with having aired Iranian military secrets in the past. But U.S. officials considered some of his past assertions inaccurate.

Jafarzadeh urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to immediately send U.N. nuclear inspectors to Lashkar Ab'ad and demand access to all areas, including a new 5,000-square foot hall in a large garden where he said secret laser enrichment activities are being conducted.

"We've only now been sent a copy of this report," said IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, "and like all information that we receive, we must take the time to check it against all our information in order to decide whether it is worth following up."

The U.N. has demanded Iran halt uranium enrichment.

Jafarzadeh said there are two ways to separate uranium isotopes and isolate U235 which can be enriched. The most common way is using centrifuges while laser technology is an experimental method, he said.

Jafarzadeh said Iran's decision to revive its laser enrichment program, which is still at experimental levels, shows Iran wants "to use every possibility that is available to them to rush to the bomb."

The laser enrichment is being conducted under the guise of a front company called Paya Partov whose board is chaired by Reza Aqazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Jafarzadeh said. Its advisers include Iran's leading experts on laser enrichment, he said.

Contrary to Iran's claim that it is complying with its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Jafarzadeh said, "once again the information indicates that this is absolutely not the case."

"The information I've gotten from my sources today suggests that Iran is heavily involved in laser enrichment program, something Iran has told the IAEA that they have abandoned," he told a news conference.

Jafarzadeh has worked for the political wing of the Mujahedin Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that Washington and the European Union list as a terrorist organization.

Iran's U.N. Mission countered in a statement, saying: "It is also a well-known fact that at any stage that the international community is witnessing a step forward in the Iranian peaceful nuclear program, this terrorist group and collaborator of Saddam Hussein tries its best to hamper the progress."

The reference to the deposed Iraqi leader stems from Saddam allowing the Mujahedin Khalq to operate bases in Iraq.

Jafarzadeh said laser technology is an experimental method of separating uranium that can be enriched from that which cannot, a process that normally is done using centrifuges.

Jafarzadeh said Iran's decision to revive its laser enrichment program, which is still "at experimental levels shows that Iran want "to use every possibility that is available to them to rush to the bomb."


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