News / Middle East

UN Experts' Report Shows Iran's Deceptive Procurement Tactics

FILE - Technicians work at a uranium processing site in Isfahan, 340 km (211 miles) south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
FILE - Technicians work at a uranium processing site in Isfahan, 340 km (211 miles) south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Reuters
— A confidential new report by a U.N. panel highlights Iran's methods of evading sanctions - from concealing titanium tubes inside steel pipes to using its petrochemical industry as a cover to obtain items for a heavy-water nuclear reactor.

The latest report by the U.N. Panel of Experts, which monitors compliance with the Security Council's sanctions regime on Iran, said Tehran's attempts to illicitly procure materials for its disputed nuclear and missile programs may have slowed down as it pursues talks on a long-term deal with world powers.

But the experts' report, which reached the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee days ahead of a new round of Vienna talks between Iran and six world powers, said an alternative explanation could be that Tehran had merely learned how to outsmart security and intelligence services in acquiring sensitive components and materials.

Though Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, Western powers and their allies suspect the country of trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

Hamid Babaei, spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission, said, "Iran's procurement for its peaceful nuclear activities are not illicit; all Iran has done so far is in compliance with its NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] rights and obligations ... The irony is whatever Iran does in good faith still tends to be seen with suspicion rather than normal behavior of an NPT member."

One example of concealment given by the panel's report was a set of titanium tubes hidden inside a shipment of stainless steel pipes manufactured in and shipped from China. The pipes were ordered by Ocean Lotka International Shipping and Forwarding Co. on Valiasr St. in Tehran.

The report, seen by Reuters, includes a photo of 10 titanium tubes snugly fitted inside steel piping. The report provides no details of the potential nuclear applications of the titanium tubes, noting only that "the Panel's investigation into this reported incident is ongoing".

The experts recommend that governments exercise greater vigilance over freight-forwarding firms, which often appear as the ordering party on shipments of items destined for Iran. While such practices are not necessarily illegal, the panel says Tehran could use them to conceal final destinations or uses.

"In three cases inspected under the current mandate, names of freight forwarders were recorded on shipping documentation in the place of consignors or consignees," the report said.

"The Panel notes that the International Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA) has issued a notice to its members warning about the increased use of counterfeit Bills of Lading in connection with shipments to and from Iran," it added.

Petrochemical cover

Another example of deception the experts have focused on for the past two years is efforts by Iran to obtain German and Indian valves for its heavy-water reactor at Arak, a plant that has proven to be a major sticking point in Tehran's nuclear negotiations with the six powers. A case involving valves is currently under investigation in Germany, the expert panel notes.

That case centers on the procurement of 1,767 valves for Modern Industries Technique Company (MITEC) - which has been under U.N. sanctions since 2010 due to its work on the Arak reactor - from 2007 though 2011. According to the experts' 2013 report, 1,163 valves appear to have reached the company.

The annual report includes a document related to the valves that shows how Iran used its legitimate petrochemical industry activities as a cover for procurement for the Arak project in violation of U.N. sanctions. The panel says the document "came from the computer of an Iranian national who was responsible for overseeing the procurement network".

It said German prosecutors gave the document to the panel.

If the Arak reactor goes online in its current form, it will yield significant amounts of weapons-grade plutonium, but the document merely explains how it would produce radioisotopes that could be used in "radiation processing, radiation therapy, radiography, scanning and tracer purposes and other peaceful applications of nuclear energy".

The owner of the Arak project, according to the document, is "Chemical & Petrochemical Company" with "MEC Engineering & Construction" listed as a consultant.

The United States and its European allies want Iran to either scrap the project or convert it to a non-threatening light-water reactor. Tehran has hinted that it would not oppose modifying the plant.

Iran does need valves for its petrochemical industry, for "which Iran has an established demand", according to the panel's report. But that makes the job of detecting illicit procurement even more difficult, the experts add.

"This further complicates efforts to understand which items may be for prohibited purposes," the panel says, noting that the Arak case "highlights the issue of Iran's use of a petrochemical company as cover for procurement".

The experts also cite a January media report on Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Company (KAA), which is on the U.N. blacklist for supporting Iran's nuclear program, and cites its links to the construction of a uranium enrichment facility at Fordow that Western powers would like to see shut down.

The media report, which several Western diplomats said was supported by intelligence, said the Special Economic Directives Division of Iran's Supreme National Security Council had issued a directive in 2013 ordering that Iranian banks and state firms facilitate the creation of new front companies linked to KAA in order to assist the Revolutionary Guards in evading U.N. and other sanctions.

"The order, which was issued in April 2013, is reportedly intended to obscure the relationship of such companies to Khatam al-Anbiya and make the activities of the company appear innocent," the report said.

One Western diplomat told Reuters that the April 2013 directive remained in effect well after Iran's new pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid