Iran may have set aside a secret $418 million fund to protect its nuclear sites from attack and build a secret new nuclear plant, according to a Western intelligence service which says it has tapped phone calls by a top Iranian politician.
Iranian parliamentary deputies had complained in February that they did not have access to detailed information about the government's budget. The draft budget contained a clause for a "special fund" and was written by Farhad Rahbar, vice-president and head of the planning and budget organization.
Rahbar is also one of the directors of the "Control Center for Nuclear Issues". This dual function allowed Rahbar, who is close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to increase the military budget for the current year 2006/2007 by around 30 percent and "conceal" the special fund.
The monitored messages show that the $418 million will be to upgrade the defense of Iranian nuclear facilities around the country, especially for tunnelling projects because Iran's leadership fears an American or Israeli surprise attack.
Other intended uses for the money are the production of dozens of new centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the expansion of its research program and -- this is making Western intelligence services especially nervous -- construction of a secret new nuclear plant at an unkown location.