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Last Updated

16 May 2003

Source: Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2003

Iran's Bioweapons Are Fiercer, Tehran Opposition Group Says


WASHINGTON -- Iran has aggressively expanded its biological-arms program and can now deliver deadly agents through weapons systems, according to a group opposed to the nation's fundamentalist government.

Iran's program is focused on the production of weapons-grade anthrax , typhus, smallpox, plague and cholera, said Alireza Jafarzadeh, the U.S. representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an arm of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK.

"Our sources have confirmed that the Iran regime is capable of delivering biological weapons and inflicting massive casualties," Mr. Jafarzadeh told a news conference here on what he described as a growing danger posed by Tehran's weapons of mass destruction.

"We need to get the attention of the policy makers about the threats of the Iran regime," he said.

The MEK gained credibility this year when it disclosed an Iranian nuclear enrichment program and other weapons production information that was later verified by U.S. officials. The State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist group, while MEK officials say the designation was made to appease Iran's government. The MEK, which has military bases in Iraq, has come under attack by U.S. forces and recently agreed to disarm.

MEK officials said the evidence of Iran's bioweapons activities was gathered in the past several months from informants in Iran, although the group didn't produce documents to support the allegations. The disclosures, if true, could strain diplomatic relations further between the Bush administration and Iran, which Mr. Bush has placed, with Iraq and North Korea, on his "axis of evil."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that the U.S. has reason to believe senior leaders of al Qaeda, the global terrorist organization, are hiding in Iran and strongly suggested that the Iranian government knows of their presence. Secretary of State Colin Powell has referred recently to findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has a vigorous nuclear weapons program.

Iran has said its technical programs are used for peaceful purposes to benefit its citizens.

In an attempt to ease relations with the U.S., Iranian President Mohammad Khatami this week in Lebanon condemned Monday's terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that claimed more than 30 lives, including eight Americans. But Mr. Khatami expressed support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that the U.S. regards as a terrorist organization.

In a recent unclassified report, the Central Intelligence Agency said Iran "already has stockpiled blister, blood and choking agents -- and the bombs and artillery shells to deliver them -- which it previously has manufactured." The report also concluded that Iran is "vigorously pursuing programs to produce indigenous weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical and biological -- and their delivery systems."

Soona Samsani, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said that the MEK had received information that the Iranian government is carrying out a plan to consolidate several university biological weapons research and military production programs. The programs were initiated in 1985, during the war with Iraq, when Baghdad used biological and chemical weapons.

Ms. Samsani named the chief scientists and locations of weapons facilities throughout the country and said that Iran plans to increase the number of researchers to 11,000 within a few years, from about 3,000 now. She also claimed that Iran was receiving technical assistance and equipment from China, India, North Korea and Russia.