A senior Iranian politician said Tehran would never shut down the controversial Fordo nuclear facility Sunday, insisting demands that it do so were aimed at helping Israel.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, made the comments several days after reports surfaced that the US and other world powers would offer to ease sanctions in return for shuttering the heavily guarded uranium enrichment facility.

“Fordo will never be shut down because our national duty is to be able to defend our nuclear and vital centers against an enemy threat,” Boroujerdi told the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Fordo, an underground fortified nuclear facility carved into a mountain south of Tehran, was built in secret and only revealed after Western intelligence discovered its existence in 2009.

The plant produces uranium enriched to 20 percent, which can be turned into weapons-grade material.

Last week, Reuters reported that the US and other world powers were planning to offer an easing of the sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals with Iran, in return for steps to shut down Fordo.

Boroujerdi dismissed the planned offer, saying that the suggestion to shut down the plant was only “meant to help the Zionist regime.”

Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers — UN Security Council members plus Germany — are set to meet in Kazakhstan later this month in the latest round of negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Several previous meetings have failed to produce any results.

Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but that claim has been rejected by much of the international community.

The Islamic Republic’s consistent refusal to allow international inspectors into the Fordo nuclear facility has frustrated Western powers and officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran’s parliament has little control over the Islamic Republic’s official foreign policy and the final word on such matters is dictated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report