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Iran Admits Buying Illegal Nuclear Technology from South Asian Dealers - 2004-02-22


Iran has admitted that it has acquired some components for its nuclear program from dealers in South Asia, but it stopped short of saying they were part of a nuclear proliferation ring led by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist. The Iranian government says it has reported all of its purchases to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran acknowledged on Sunday that it used dealers to acquire some of its nuclear technology. Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi says some of the middle-men in those arrangements were from "the Indian sub-continent."

"And we have reported in due time to [the International] Atomic Energy Agency," he added.

Iran maintains that it wants to make energy from its nuclear program, not weapons.

But the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, has criticized Iran for not being more forthcoming about its nuclear facilities. The IAEA says it has discovered Iran's plans for an advanced P2 centrifuge used for enriching uranium. It is a more advanced design than the P1 model Iran admits to having.

Mr. Asefi did not specify which components in Iran's nuclear program were purchased through illegal dealers and he said he did not know where the dealers had acquired the parts.

He also disputed the IAEA's assertion that Iran had kept its centrifuge technology hidden.

"For the P2 we had informed the IAEA in due time, and as I said in my previous remarks today that was for research work, it was not utilized, and we reported to IAEA in due time," said Mr. Asefi.

Details about the South Asian nuclear proliferation ring have begun to emerge since a top Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted to leaking nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

The scope of the illegal network includes Malaysia, where a Sri Lankan businessman has confessed to selling $3 million worth of centrifuge technology to Iran in the 1990s.

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