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Monday, November 29, 2004

Der Spiegel: Iran Built Tunnel For Nuclear Bomb Production

Iran dug tunnel for military nuclear work-magazine. (Via LGF)

BERLIN, Nov 27 (al-Reuters) - Iran is working on a secret nuclear programme for military purposes despite promising the European Union it would halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, the news magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday.

The magazine said it had obtained documents from an unnamed intelligence agency showing that Iran had dug a secret tunnel near an Isfahan facility preparing raw uranium for enrichment, even though operations there had been stopped.

Iran, which has repeatedly denied trying to develop nuclear weapons, promised the European Union on Nov. 14 it would halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, a process that creates atomic fuel for power plants or weapons.

It then demanded an exemption for some 20 enrichment centrifuges for research purposes, a move Western diplomats argued could torpedo the whole deal. They said Iranian officials in Vienna dropped the demand on Friday, but were waiting for a final decision from Tehran.

Der Spiegel, in an advance release of a report due to appear on Monday, said the secret underground facility near Isfahan could soon be ready to produce large amounts of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6). Centrifuges that spin at supersonic speed can produce enriched uranium from UF6.

The magazine said that according to the intelligence documents, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally issued a directive at the start of October to build the secret tunnel.

Diplomats say the Iranian attempt to exempt some centrifuges from the deal struck with the European Union was infuriating both the EU, which is offering Tehran a package of economic incentives in exchange for freezing enrichment activities, and Washington which is adamant Iran is trying to produce nuclear arms.

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