"It is clear that Iran draws from many of the same networks that supplied Libya with nuclear technology, components and materials, including the Abdol Qadir Khan black market network"
NEW YORK (IPS)
The Bush administration is imposing sanctions on 13 foreign companies and individuals in seven countries that it says have sold equipment or expertise that Iran could use in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, the New York Times quoted Friday officials from the George W. Bush administration.
The decision was taken just days after the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it had inaugurated new facilities for enriching uranium, angering the United States, but mostly Britain, France and Germany, the three powers that had concluded an agreement with Iran last October for suspending uranium enriching activities.
With unusually strong words, the European Union’s "Big 3" condemned Iran's decision to resume work on a key nuclear program, saying the new activities "send the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities and will make it more difficult for Iran to re-establish international confidence in its undertakings."
But Mr. Pirooz Hoseyni, the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the British news agency Reuters in a telephone interview that the uranium conversion plant is a totally separate issue from Iran’s commitment to the suspension of uranium enrichment.
Presidential advisor Hassan Qaffoorifard said that the plant was meant for scientific and research purposes, adding that Iran had informed the IAEA two months earlier that it would be starting up the plant.
"The Europeans' criticism is baseless, for the IAEA has approved the starting up of the plant", he was quoted by the pro-conservative news agency Mehr.
"The Europeans' criticism is baseless, for the IAEA has approved the starting up of the plant"
"European countries showed that they have overtaken the US in creating a negative political atmosphere against Iran and (therefore) we have to make a serious response to the European countries’ negative remarks and deprive them of the chance to spread baseless rumors against Iran", he said.
At about the same time that the American Administration announced the sanctions, sources at the IAEA told Reuters that the Agency has found traces of bomb-grade uranium in Iran at sites other than Kalaye, near Tehran and Natanz, situated in central Iran.
Last year inspectors from the international nuclear watchdog reported traces of enriched uranium at these sites but the Atomic Agency was not notified.
Iran confirmed, but explained that the equipments they had bought from un-named countries or on the black market were ageing and already contaminated.
However, despite claims by Tehran that all its nuclear programs and activities are for civilian use, mostly producing electricity; experts said uranium with the high concentration of U-235 they had found in Natanz has both civilian and military uses.
In a resolution adopted last month, the 35 members of the IAEA Board of Director "deplored" Iran's omissions on reporting the use of more advanced P-2 centrifuge bought for 3 millions from the Pakistani renegade nuclear scientist professor Abdol Qadir Khan.
"Iran seems determined to pursue its nuclear weapons programme in an undisturbed and clandestine fashion so that it can more easily obtain critical nuclear technology that it needs for its weapons program", US under secretary for arms control John Bolton told the Congress on Tuesday.
"Iran's pattern of repeatedly lying to and providing false reports to the IAEA cast serious doubts on the commitment it made to the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany last October to suspend its uranium enrichment programme and open all facilities to inspectors", he added.
Last month, diplomats in Istanbul said Iran has created a committee for concealing its nuclear-related factories by dispersing them across the country in order to make them difficult to find by international inspectors.
Bolton said Iran had a "massive deception and denial campaign" aimed at preventing international inspectors from uncovering the country's "robust" biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programmes.
"It is clear that Iran draws from many of the same networks that supplied Libya with nuclear technology, components and materials, including the Abdol Qadir Khan black market network", he said, referring to the network run by the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Bolton called destroying the network through sanctions and other steps "a priority objective for the United States".
The sanctions will prohibit the companies and individuals from exporting goods to or receiving contracts or assistance from the United States and will prevent American companies from trading with them for two years.
Officials said the sanctions were being imposed under the Iran Non Proliferation Act of 2000, which prevents sales of goods and technology that Iran could use to acquire long-range missiles and unconventional weapons.
"This is about branding companies and people who make such sales as proliferators," said one official who has seen the list and followed the administration's use of sanctions.
The 13 entities include five Chinese companies as well as companies in Russia, Macedonia, Belarus, Taiwan, North Korea and the United Arab Emirates. At least five have already been given sanctions at least once by the Administration.
Mr. Bolton also disclosed that the Administration would soon penalize more companies for trading in nuclear goods and technology with Iran, but he did not identify them at the hearing.
Mr. Bolton also shed new light on the administration's view of what President Perviz Mosharraf of Pakistan knew about Dr. Khan's illicit nuclear sales network before his confession and about the status of Pakistan and American efforts to stop such sales.
Questioned by committee Democrats about whether there was evidence that General Mosharraf was complicit in nuclear sales by Dr. Khan's network to Iran, Libya and North Korea, Mr. Bolton said he believed that President Mosharraf might finally have been emboldened by the revelations last year of Iran's illicit nuclear activities and Libya's decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction.
IAEA inspectors visited last week some sites in Iran and Dr Mohammad el-Baradeh'i, the Agency’s Director is expected to go to Iran next week, but diplomats in Vienna said Washington is opposed to the visit.
The US has told Mr ElBarade'i that it suspects Iran has a clandestine uranium enrichment programme at undisclosed military facilities separate from the civilian programs.
Iran for its part has strongly denied and rejected all these allegations and accusations, including that of being in the process of building a nuclear arsenal.
Mehr news agency quoted Saturday the German ambassador to Iran Herr Paul Von Maltzahn as having said that Iran has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes according to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
"The difference is that the U.S. doesn’t even want Iran to have a civilian nuclear program", the diplomat said, adding, "If it is proven that Iran has abandoned its past nuclear activities we can have sanctions against Iran waived."
Maltzahn said that Germany is capable of having sanctions against the Islamic Republic scrapped if Iran renounces its past nuclear brinkmanship, the agency said, without explaining which sanctions the ambassador was talking about.
"The Tehran Declaration incorporates different phases. If Iran abides by its commitments, the European Union will launch a new phase of cooperation with the Islamic Republic," he said, adding: "Europe is willing to come closer to Iran and resume its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iran", referring to the Agreement signed in the Iranian capital between foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany with Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, the Secretary to the Supreme Council of National Security, who is also Iran’s senior negotiator with the IAEA.
Washington criticized the Agreement, observing that "suspension" (of uranium enriching activities) does not mean that Iran has accepted to stop them. ENDS US IRAN NUCLEAR 3404.