JERUSALEM—The former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization revealed that Iran concealed information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) because it believed intelligence agencies were using the reports to sabotage its nuclear program.
Fereydoon Abbasi told the Iranian daily Khorasan that the West obtained its information from reports submitted by Iran to the IAEA as well as from foreign firms providing equipment used in Tehran’s nuclear program. The interview is believed to be the first time that a former senior official in Iran has given details about sabotage and about Iran’s subsequent concealment of information about its nuclear facilities.
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Abbasi said that Iran had for at least seven years withheld information about its construction of a heavy water reactor at Arak and the location and activity of the facilities workshops. The Arak facility is expected to be a principal subject in negotiations over Teheran’s nuclear program between Iran and Western nations aimed at curtailing the program, which resume today in Vienna.
The interview with Abbasi was published yesterday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Abbasi said that Western intelligence scrutinized the IAEA’s periodic reports for information it could exploit. If, for instance, it noted that a certain pump had not yet arrived in Iran, "the intelligence agency searches the globe for companies that make the pump and pressures them. Or it would allow them to (make the shipment) only after sabotaging the parts."
Sometimes, he said, the intelligence agencies would infect an electronic system being shipped to Iran with a virus or plant explosives in it "or even alter the type of components in order to paralyze (Iran’s) system."
He said that the Western agencies closed off many of the purchasing channels for equipment that Iran needed for the nuclear program.
"At the same time, they opened channels that they control in order to provide Iran with equipment that would benefit them. That’s how they got the Stuxnet virus into Iran. They planted it in equipment that Iran purchased." Stuxnet was a virus reportedly developed by the U.S. and Israel that did extensive damage to the nuclear program.
Abassi said that companies like the German electronic giant, Siemens, "are at the complete mercy" of the intelligence agencies. He also singled out a British firm, Edwards, involved in the production of centrifuges. On the basis of information provided to the IAEA, he said, the foreign intelligence agencies know how many centrifuges Iran intends to install and what parts are missing.
He said that Iran had concealed the location of the warehouse and workshop for the Arak reactor.
"They (Western intelligence agencies) might have carried out assassinations there. We had information that they might attack it with Stinger missiles. Launching a missile into the reactor’s main warehouse would make (the reactor) inoperable," he said.
Although sabotage has apparently delayed the Iranian program significantly, Western officials believe that Tehran now has the know-how to produce a nuclear weapon and could probably do in a relatively brief span of time.