By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA - Iran's government is conducting nuclear activities linked to a covert atomic weapons programme at a military site unknown to U.N. inspectors, says an exiled opposition group that has given accurate information before.
"We know of a military site where Iran has been carrying out nuclear work," Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told Reuters.
Diplomats in Vienna who follow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, say the NCRI has been the best source of information on Tehran's previously undeclared nuclear programme.
The NCRI, like Washington, accuses the Iranian government of using its nuclear power programme as a front to develop atomic weapons. Tehran dismisses this allegation, insisting its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
Gobadi said that the group would disclose details of the site in Tehran, including its address and a map, at a news conference later on Wednesday.
"The IAEA always says it wants addresses (of secret sites). Now we are giving it to them," Gobadi said.
The NCRI is the political wing of the exiled group known as the People's Mujahideen Organisation. Both are listed by the U.S. State Department as terrorist organisations.
The IAEA said in a new report on its two-year investigation of Iran's nuclear programme that Iran had not diverted any of its declared nuclear materials to a weapons programme, but did not rule out the possibility secret atomic activities existed.
The NCRI established its reputation as a nuclear whistleblower in August 2002 when it said the Islamic republic had not declared a massive uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak. The allegation was later confirmed and Iran declared the facilities to the IAEA.
Since that time, the NCRI has disclosed several sites linked to Tehran's nuclear programme, but nothing as shocking as Natanz and Arak.
Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons. Iran this week promised the IAEA to temporarily freeze its enrichment programme and related activities as part of a deal with France, Britain and Germany.