Key pieces of equipment purchased from Europe, shipped to Tehran
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LONDON – British MI6 intelligence agency investigators have discovered Iran has set up a new smuggling network in Taiwan to obtain specialized equipment used for the production of nuclear weapons, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Insiders report Iran has established companies to buy the equipment on the world markets and then smuggle it into Tehran.
The purchases have involved pressure transducers, which are used to produce weapons-grade uranium, and Secret Intelligence Service officers have established that nuclear scientists from Tehran have held meetings in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to buy the units.
The equipment is stored by the companies in a high-security area on the island.
The companies are fronted by local Chinese businessmen, and MI6 officers believe some of them have worked in China‘s own nuclear industry before moving to Taiwan. The intelligence officers have also traced bank accounts held by the businessmen to banks in the Cayman Islands.
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“It suggests that they are almost certainly well paid for the work on behalf of Iran,” said a senior intelligence source in London.
Iran has been trying to acquire the equipment for more than a year. But Russia and European companies refused to sell Tehran the transducers.
Now China has joined in refusing to sell such specialized technology after Beijing supported a censure motion passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last month following the revelation that Tehran was building a second uranium enrichment facility at Qom.
At the end of this month, the U.N. will be asked to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran unless it agrees to abandon its nuclear program.
A report passed on by MI6 to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last week revealed Iran had already acquired 100 transducers from Taiwan.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s comments coincide with report that IAEA withheld evidence about Iran‘s nuclear weapon capabilities
In a rare interview with Western media, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran has no need for nuclear weapons, but he did not rule out the possibility that Iran might develop them in the future. The broadcasting of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks coincided with a new report, based on previously undisclosed information, that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has withheld evidence about how close Iran is to making a nuclear bomb.
In excerpts of an interview aired Thursday night on NBC News, Ahmadinejad said that “the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes… will never be closed down here in Iran.” When interviewer Ann Curry asked whether Iran would ever develop a nuclear weapon, Ahmadinejad said Iran had no need for such weapons.
“If nuclear weapons were influential, they would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union — for that matter, the downfall of the Zionist regime,” he said, referring to Israel, long believed to possess 200 nuclear weapons. “Our people have never had a need for nuclear weapons.”
“So, may I assume, then, your answer to that question is ‘no’?” Curry asked.
Again, Ahmadinejad said: “We don’t need such — we don’t have a such a need, nuclear weapons. We don’t need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons, we are very much able to defend ourselves.”
Curry pressed Ahmadinejad again on the question, noting that “people will remark that you did not say no.” He replied, “You can take from this whatever you want, madam.” Further excerpts of the interview, which was taped a week previously in Tehran, ran Friday morning. The full interview is to be aired Sunday afternoon.
Ahmadinejad’s refusal to rule out Iran building a nuclear weapon comes just a day after President Barack Obama announced plans to scrap the Bush administration’s missile shield plan in favor of a new system which would better deal with short- and medium-ranged missiles launched from Iran. President Bush‘s plan would have placed interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against long-range Iranian missiles targeting Europe.
Also on Thursday, the Associated Press released a report that experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, believe that Iran is currently capable of building a nuclear weapon. The AP based their report on a confidential document titled “Possible Military Dimension of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was written by senior IAEA officials.
The information in the document that is either new, more detailed or represents a more forthright conclusion than found in published IAEA reports includes:
– The IAEA’s assessment that Iran worked on developing a chamber inside a ballistic missile capable of housing a warhead payload “that is quite likely to be nuclear.”
– That Iran engaged in “probable testing” of explosives commonly used to detonate a nuclear warhead — a method known as a “full-scale hemispherical explosively driven shock system.”
– An assessment that Iran worked on developing a system “for initiating a hemispherical high explosive charge” of the kind used to help spark a nuclear blast.
In another key finding, an excerpt notes: “The agency … assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device (an atomic bomb) based on HEU (highly enriched uranium) as the fission fuel.”
These details add significantly to previous reports on Iran’s nuclear capability, as summarized this summer in a Monitor briefing, ‘How close is Iran to a bomb?’
The AP writes that two international officials confirmed the authenticity of the document, though they insisted on anonymity because the document was meant only to be seen by top IAEA officials.
The IAEA denied that it was hiding evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, calling such an idea “politically motivated and baseless,” Reuters reports. In a statement commenting on the AP story, the IAEA said that it “has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons programme in Iran.”
Reuters also writes that Israel, which has typically been highly vocal about the threat of a nuclear Iran, may be changing its message. Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense, said that even if Iran had nuclear weapons, it would not be able to defeat Israel.
“Right now, Iran does not have a bomb. Even if it did, this would not make it a threat to Israel’s existence. Israel can lay waste to Iran,” Barak said in a transcript of a newspaper interview obtained by Reuters before publication Friday.
Israeli leaders have repeatedly sounded alarms over Iran’s atomic ambitions, pointing at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map” and support for Islamist guerrilla groups arrayed along Israel’s borders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-winger who brought the centre-left Barak into his coalition government, said he saw “eye to eye” with the Defence minister – signalling a possible change in Israel’s official rhetoric as world powers prepare to revive diplomatic engagement with Iran next month.
Reuters adds that Mr. Netanyahu issued a supportive response to Mr. Barak’s comments, saying “I think that what the Defence minister wanted to say, something that I believe, is that the State of Israel will be able to defend itself in any situation.”
The Times quoted Western intelligence sources as saying the Iranians completed their research program to create weaponized uranium back in 2003.
Contrary to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report which claimed that Iran halted its nuclear activities because of the threat of an American invasion following the occupation of Iraq, the real reason for the halt was that the Iranians had figured out how to detonate a warhead that could be fitted on its long-range Shehab-3 missiles, according to the Times.
“If the Supreme Leader takes the decision [to build a bomb], we assess they have to enrich low-enriched uranium to highly-enriched uranium at the Natanz plant, which could take six months, depending on how many centrifuges are operating,” an intelligence source told the Times. “We don’t know if the decision was made yet.”
Aside from the Natanz plant, the source speculated that Iran may have built a number of small, secret facilities which store materials that can be developed for a nuclear bomb, the Times reported.
American officials briefed Israel last week on the administration’s ideas for intensifying sanctions against Iran if it fails to respond to U.S. President Barack Obama‘s offer of dialogue.
In his meeting with Israeli officials, U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones indicated that Tehran has until the UN General Assembly in the last week of September to respond. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a similar message during his visit here earlier this week. If no satisfactory answer is received, the Americans said, they would work to form an international coalition to impose harsh sanctions on Iran.
A senior source in Jerusalem said the American message to Israel in these talks was to “lower its profile” and refrain from “ranting and raving” about Iran in public until the international evaluation on Iran takes place at the end of September. “Until that date, we must give diplomacy a chance,” the official said.
“If they want to, they will be able to set off a uranium bomb within six months,” an analyst with Germany’s intelligence service, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), told the magazine.
“Nobody would have thought this possible some years ago,” an intelligence official told Stern.
The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demands to suspend uranium enrichment.
Some analysts say Iran may be close to having the required material for producing a bomb, but most say the weaponization process would then take one to two years due to technical and political hurdles.
“Weaponizing” enrichment would not escape the notice of UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), unless it was done at a secret location.
Until now there have been no indications of any such covert diversion, a point made by the IAEA’s incoming director-general shortly after his election earlier this month.
Current IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said it is his “gut feeling” that Iran is seeking at least the capability to build nuclear weapons, in order to protect itself from perceived regional and U.S. threats.
Libyan leader: Peaceful nuclear program should be encouraged
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says Iran should be encouraged to pursue its nuclear program as long as it is for peaceful purposes.
He said it is “unjust” to stop Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, but that it must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States and Israel say Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is for generating power.
Libya in 2003 abandoned its own program to develop nuclear and chemical weapons.