An Iranian exile group on Tuesday accused Iran’s government of conducting secret research with the aim of developing nuclear weapons, even as it is negotiating potential constraints on its ability to do so.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran said underground labs in suburban Tehran have been used since 2008 to enrich uranium. It said the plant, named Lavizan-3 after the neighborhood where many officers and their families live, is reached through tunnels leading from under a building ostensibly used to process passports and identity cards.
The claims could not be independently verified and U.S. officials initially declined to comment. On Wednesday, a State Department spokeswoman said officials “have no information at this time to support such a conclusion.”
“We have seen these claims and we take all such reports seriously,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Representatives of the opposition group, appearing at the National Press Club before a flag dating from pre-revolutionary Iran, detailed their claims as Secretary of State John F. Kerry testified before Congress, defending the administration’s ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
Negotiators want to reach the broad outlines of an agreement by late March, though many highly complex technical details would still have to be hashed out before an interim agreement expires in late June.
The Iranian opposition group said Iran has lied about its nuclear program before, and no deal should be signed until Tehran agrees to inspections of the Lavizan-3 facility.
“It’s absolutely senseless to continue negotiations and decide the number of centrifuges you’re going to have if we have these serious issues lingering out there,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the group’s Washington office.