Iran: 2nd Nuke Site Is Message That Work Will Continue

Iran's newly-revealed second uranium enrichment site is a "political message" that neither sanctions nor a possible military strike will halt its nuclear program, a senior Iranian official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the site disclosed in September, knowsn as Fordo, near Qom, was being built in case its main Natanz enrichment plant was bombed.

The U.N. watchdog IAEA says Iran was legally bound to reveal the project at least two years ago, according to Reuters.

On Monday, an IAEA report said Iran's acknowledgement of the site was long overdue and "reduced confidence" that Tehran was not hiding other sites that could perhaps support other nuclear facilities, Reuters reported.

The report stated that Iran told the IAEA that it had begun constructing the plant within a bunker under a mountain in late 2007, but the IAEA had satellite pictures and intelligence evidence pointing to a construction start date of 2002.

Iran granted IAEA inspectors access to the site on Oct. 26-27, but didn't provide them with access to its director or architects. The report said Iran had not yet convinced the agency that the country had ruled out the existence of more hidden sites.

"We reject this 100 percent," said Soltanieh, according to Reuters. "This kind of judgment is absolutely wrong, unfair, political and beyond the (IAEA's) mandate. There is no justification for it."

The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are seeking to persuade Iran to accept an enrichment freeze under a plan of exporting Iran's enriched material abroad.

"That offer has been comprehensively rejected," warned British Prime Minister Gordon Brown late Monday. "So it is now not only right but necessary for the world to apply concerted pressure to the Iranian regime."

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said in China there would be consequences if Iran would not demonstrate that its nuclear program was "peaceful and transparent" and has called for an answer to the U.N. deal by the end of the year.

Soltanieh shot back saying that Obama's remarks would weaken the U.N. watchdog by casting doubt on its findings.

The agency stated that Iran had fully cooperated with the agency and inspections could continue, he maintained.

"The new Fordo site is a clear political message that neither U.N. Security Council sanctions nor the threat of military attack can stop (our) enrichment under full scope safeguards of the IAEA," Reuters quoted Soltanieh.

"So the advice to those (Western powers) who have so far not coped with this reality is to cope with this reality — that this enrichment will continue at any price under IAEA (monitoring) for peaceful purposes."

"This is a contingency site, complementary to Natanz, in order that our enrichment process will never, ever be suspended. Its purpose is just to have a more protected, secure site."

Iran maintains that the site is intended to yield fuel for civilian power plants, Reuters reported.

Iran ignored a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions that would impose sanctions over its refusal to suspend enrichment in exchange for trade benefits.

Western analysts say Fordo's size will only allow it to enrich small amounts of uranium to make a bomb, not to fuel a nuclear power station, according to Reuters.

One of the country's most concerned about the Iranian program is Israel and on Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the world about Iran while riding in a submarine capable of firing nuclear-tipped missiles.

"The threat that Iran poses is very grave for the state of Israel, for peace in the Middle East and the whole world," Netanyahu said aboard the ship INS Eilat. "Without any doubt, we are the first target, but not the last."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.