Sunday, January 30, 2005

Daily Times - Iran said to be making chemical arms

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Iran said to be making chemical arms

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: A leading American nuclear watchdog has claimed that Iran’s chemical and ballistic missile programmes pose a more “imminent threat” than its nascent nuclear effort, revealing as they do Tehran’s determination to develop unconventional weapons.

The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control’s latest ‘Iran Watch Bulletin’ says that these programmes are being built with the help of Russia and China. A CIA report last year said that Iran’s chemical weapons probably include blister, blood and choking agents like mustard, cyanide and phosgene and Iran may be working with more deadly agents like VX nerve gas. Iran is also now ready to mass produce its Shahab-3 missile which is estimated to travel 800 miles. The missile can also deliver a nuclear or a chemical payload.

A US official told Iran Watch, “Iran is still getting essential help from China and Russia.” For missiles, it is getting “solid propellant and guidance” from Chinese companies, while Russian companies are sending “liquid fuel technology and engineering know-how.”

To make chemical warheads for the missiles to carry, Iran has been able to buy glass-lined equipment from Chinese firms. One of Iran’s most dependable helpers is the China North Industries Corporation, a state-sponsored company that has been sanctioned five times by the State Department since 2003. From Russia’s Baltic State Tactical University, Iran has received missile training, reportedly including a missile education centre set up in Iran to facilitate technology transfers from Russia.

According to Iran Watch, that the activities of Russian and Chinese companies have continued despite repeated censuring by the United States proves that Russia and China are at best indifferent to the key role their companies play in improving weapons programmes in Iran. The watchdog group recommends that in order to convince China and Russia to “change their ways” the US must do more than just revoke the US trade privileges of firms that do little or no business with the United States.

“Failure to do so would not only benefit Iran’s chemical weapons and missile programmes, but could also impair the Bush administration’s quest to haul Iran before the UN Security Council for its nuclear transgressions ... By virtue of their indigenous capabilities and their seats on the Security Council, China and Russia have the power to stop proliferation to Iran or to fuel it. The United States must convince them to switch sides. Pushing Russia and China to start punishing their export control violators would be a good start.”"

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