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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Denies Hiding Nukes at Secret Site

TEHRAN, Iran -- Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, denied claims Tuesday that Iran was hiding a nuclear site from the IAEA.

"This piece of information is absolutely baseless," he said of the allegation by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled Iranian opposition group that has given accurate information in the past about Iran's nuclear program.

Salehi was responding to the NCRI's initial allegation made on Monday. On Tuesday the group gave more details, saying Tehran had been hiding a nuclear facility near Isfahan in central Iran.

"The site has been built to test centrifuges that enrich uranium," NCRI member Firouz Mahvi told reporters in Vienna.

The IAEA passed a resolution last month that gave Iran until Oct. 31 to disprove U.S.-led concerns that it was secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons capability.

Iran insists its nuclear program is purely aimed at generating electricity, not making bombs.

In August 2002, the NCRI broke the news of two undeclared nuclear sites in Iran -- a massive uranium enrichment complex at Natanz and a heavy water production facility at Arak. Tehran later declared these facilities to the IAEA, which has since placed surveillance cameras at Natanz.

Salehi said Iran had taken a decision "to cooperate fully with the agency and reveal whatever peaceful nuclear activities we have had in the past".

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is expected in Iran on Thursday. ElBaradei has warned that if Tehran fails to cooperate fully, Iran's case may be sent to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. Asked whether Iran planned to ask ElBaradei for an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline, Salehi said Tehran refused to recognize the date as binding.

"That time limit is not our concern, it's a concern for others," he said. Pressed on whether Iran would be able to answer all the IAEA's outstanding questions about its nuclear program by the end of the month, he said, "We are doing our best to speed up our cooperation."

ElBaradei has said the key issue for the IAEA is to make sure it knows everything about Iran's uranium enrichment program and whether it contains any sites or activities that have not been declared.

The IAEA has found traces of arms-grade enriched uranium at two sites in Iran this year. Iran says this was due to contamination from machinery bought on the black market and has agreed to provide details of the imported parts.

Salehi said talks during ElBaradei's short visit to Iran this week would not touch on the issue of Iran signing the additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

 In Berlin on Tuesday, the head of Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosenergoatom, which is assisting in the construction of a controversial reactor at Bushehr, Iran, said the timetable for completion was "very, very uncertain" because of international concern over Iran's nuclear intentions.

Oleg Sarayev's statement contradicted comments from a Russian government source on Monday who denied politics was holding up the project.