(Updates with second denial from Iranian official in third paragraph, reaction from Israeli officials in fifth.)
Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said a report of a blast at its Fordo nuclear site was “absolutely incorrect,” the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
“The false report of an explosion in the Fordo site is western propaganda ahead of the nuclear negotiations in order to impact the talks,” Seyyed Shamseddin Barbardoudi, the deputy head of Iran’s atomic agency, was quoted as saying by IRNA late yesterday. “No explosion has occurred at Fordo.”
Masoud Jazayeri, a spokesman for the joint chiefs of staff of Iran’s armed forces, also denied the explosion claim, according to a report today by the state-run Iranians Students News Agency.
In a Jan. 24 report, the WorldNetDaily said an explosion occurred last week at Fordo, which is built inside a mountain outside the Iranian capital, destroying part of the installation and trapping some 240 employees underground. It cited a former Iranian intelligence ministry official, Hamidreza Zakeri.
The Fordo site, where Iran carries out uranium enrichment, has drawn particular attention from Israel because it would be difficult to destroy in an air strike. Israel has said it may carry out such attacks in order to stop Iran’s nuclear progress. Ministry official Amos Gilad told Army Radio today that Israeli authorities have no knowledge of the blast and won’t speculate about the report.
Iran is at loggerheads with the U.S. and its western allies, who say the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program may be aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the allegation and says its work is solely civilian, aimed at generating electricity and for medical research.
The U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany are seeking to reach a consensus with Iran on the venue for the next round of negotiations. The last round of nuclear talks between the Persian Gulf nation and the group known as the P5+1 was held in Moscow in June 2012.
--With assistance from Yeganeh Salehi in Tehran and Calev Ben- David in Jerusalem. Editors: Ben Holland, Andrew J. Barden