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Iran tapped Russia, China for weapons of mass destruction technology: CIA

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2000 (AFP) - Iran actively sought technology and equipment for weapons of mass destruction programs last year from suppliers in Russia, China, North Korea and western Europe, the CIA said in a report made public Wednesday.

"In doing so, Tehran is attempting to develop an indigeous capability to produce various types of weapons -- nuclear, chemical and biological -- and their delivery systems," said the report to Congress by the CIA's Non-Proliferation Center.

The report, which covers proliferation activities in the first half of 1999, described the transfers of equipment and technology only in general terms, offering few specifics.

It said entities in Russia and China supplied "a considerable amount and a wide variety of ballistic missile-related goods and technology to Iran" during the period.

"Tehran is using these goods and technologies to support current production programs and to achieve its goal of becoming self-sufficient in the production of ballistic missiles," it said.

Iran, which tested a medium-range Shahab-3 missile in July 1998, probably could deploy a limited number of Shahab-3 prototypes in a crisis, it said.

The report noted comments by Iranian officials acknowleging work to develop a Shahab-4 missile, and plans for a Shahab-5.

Iran also was in the market for dual use biotechnical equipment during the first half of 1999, "ostensibly for civilian uses," the report said. Iran began a biological warfare program during the Iran-Iraq war and may have some a limited deployment capability, it said.

On the chemical weapons front, it sought "technology, expertise, and chemicals that could be used as precursor agents in its chemical warfare (CW) program from entities in Russia and China," the report said.

"It also acquired or attempted to acquire indirectly through intermediaries in other countries equipment and material that could be used to create a more advanced and self-sufficient CW infrastructure," it said.

The report outlined Russian and Chinese nuclear cooperation with Iran on civilian projects.

"Iran is attempting to establish a complete nuclear fuel cycle for its civilian energy program," it said. "In that guise, it seeks to obtain whole facilities, such as a uranium conversion facility, that in fact could be used in any number of ways in support of efforts to produce fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon."

It added: "Despite international efforts to curtail the flow of critical technologies and equipment, Tehran continues to seek fissile material and technology for weapons development and has set up an elaborate system of military and civilian organizations to support its effort."