Conflicting reports surround explosion at Irans Fordo nuclear plant

An explosion rocked Iran’s Fordo Nuclear plant, according to Israeli and Western media, but Tehran denys. (AFP)

An explosion has rocked Iran’s Fordo Nuclear plant, according to Israeli and Western media reports, but Tehran’s Fars news agency quoted the deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces denying the reports as propaganda.

Israel’s Ynet news has quoted the British Times newspaper as saying that Israeli officials have confirmed the explosion.

The Times added that the Israeli defense officials cannot verify whether it was a result of sabotage or an accident.

One unconfirmed report said as many as 200 people were feared trapped inside the facility.

Other Western media such as the Irish Times have reported that the underground uranium enrichment facility near the Central city of Qom was rocked by a massive explosion two days ago.

The BBC listed conflicting allegations on the subject. Tehran has categorically denied these recent media reports.

The deputy head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) called the reports "Western propaganda" designed to influence forthcoming nuclear talks.

"The false news of an explosion at Fordo is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome," Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi, deputy of the AEOI, was quoted as saying by the Iran’s state news agency, Irna.

Fordo is Iran's second largest nuclear facility and is considered impregnable to airstrikes and most bunker-buster bombs.

Late in August, a senior Iranian legislator said Iran's nuclear scientists and experts have managed to thwart enemies' plots to infiltrate and blow up the country's newly constructed Fordo uranium enrichment facility.

"The enemies intended to repeat a Chernobyl-like disaster through selling (booby-trapped) equipment and blowing up the centrifuges at the Fordo site, but their plot was discovered and foiled by the Iranian scientists' wisdom and tact," member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Abbas Ali Mansouri told FNA at the time.

Fordo is designed to contain 16 cascades of centrifuges producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, which experts say could be enriched to about 90 percent, or weapons-grade, in a relatively short time. The IAEA said half of the cascades could be fully operational within months.

Tehran insists its nuclear activities are for solely peaceful purposes, but Western powers fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Last Update: Monday, 11 March 2013 KSA 17:04 - GMT 14:04