TEHRAN, Iran – Iran accused world powers on Wednesday of trying to spy on the country with a newly built U.N. seismic monitoring station near its border to detect tremors from nuclear explosions.
Construction of the station was completed last week in neighboring Turkmenistan, a few miles from the Iranian border. It's one of 337 such stations worldwide that detect seismic activity set off by weak blasts and even shock waves from nuclear experiments.
Abolfazl Zohrehvand, an adviser to Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, said the international treaty that allows for setting up such observatories is an "espionage treaty."
"With the disclosure of the identity of such stations, it is clear the activity of one of them (in Turkmenistan) is to monitor Iran," Zohrehvand told state IRNA news agency.
Zohrehvand said the U.N. planned to set up more than one such station around Iran.
The U.S. and some of its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program is a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying the program is geared toward generating electricity.
A U.N. commission that seeks to ban all nuclear tests announced last week on its Web site that the new nuclear warning station has been set up between Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert and the Kopet mountain range.
The Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, or CTBTO, said the station has now been fully constructed and is currently undergoing testing.
Zohrehvand said the CTBTO is a "security and espionage treaty, even more dangerous" than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's additional protocol, which allows intrusive inspections of nuclear facilities in member states. Iran is a member of both the CTBTO and the NPT.
The United Nations has demanded Iran freeze uranium enrichment. Tehran insists it has a right to enrich uranium to produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity. Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as nuclear fuel but enriched to higher levels, can be used at material for a nuclear bomb.
Iran and the West are deadlocked over a U.N. proposal for Iran to send much of its enriched uranium abroad. The plan is aimed at drastically reducing Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium in hopes of thwarting the country's ability to potentially make a nuclear weapon. So far, Iran has balked at the offer.
Recently, Tehran announced it intends to build the 10 new sites — a statement that followed a strong rebuke from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.