Iran denies explosion at underground uranium facility
By Marcus George
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has denied media reports of a major explosion at one of its most sensitive uranium enrichment sites, describing them as Western propaganda designed to influence upcoming nuclear negotiations.
Reuters has been unable to verify reports since Friday of an explosion early last week at the underground Fordow bunker, near the religious city of Qom, that some Israeli and Western media have said caused significant damage.
"The false news of an explosion at Fordow is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome," state news agency IRNA quoted the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi, as saying late on Sunday.
Iran's ISNA news agency quoted military commander Massoud Jazayeri as saying: "I deny an explosion at the Fordow site."
In late 2011 the plant at Fordow began producing uranium enriched to 20 percent fissile purity, compared with the 3.5 percent level needed for nuclear energy plants. Several U.N. Security Council resolutions have ordered Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment.
Speculation of an explosion at Fordow followed an Iranian news agency report that global powers and Tehran could resume talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program on Monday and Tuesday. The European Union, the lead negotiator on the nuclear talks, said there was no such agreement.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the United Nations' nuclear agency is based, said on Monday they had no knowledge of any incident at Fordow but were looking into the reports. One Western diplomat said he did not believe them to be correct.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites including Fordow, had no immediate comment. Continued...