LONDON (AFP) -Iran has been scouring Europe for nuclear bomb technology, a British newspaper said, citing a report by Western intelligence agencies.
Iranian scientists are hunting parts for a new ballistic missile capable of hitting Europe, with “important requests and acquisitions… registered almost daily,” the 55-page assessment concludes, according to The Guardian daily.
Pakistan and Syria have also been shopping for the chemicals and technology required to enrich uranium and develop rocket programmes, it reported.
Chinese front companies have played a key role in North Korean arms procurement endeavour while Russia is identified as crucial to Iran’s military programmes, The Guardian added.
The newspaper said the document was dated July 1, 2005 and included material from British, French, German and Belgian agencies.
It has been used to brief European government ministers and warn top industrialists to be vigilant when exporting expertise or equipment to “rogue states”, according to The Guardian.
Iran announced on Tuesday it would resume nuclear fuel research after a suspension of over two years, prompting the UN atomic watchdog to warn Tehran that it must maintain a freeze on sensitive nuclear work.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran would not “step back” on its decision to resume nuclear fuel work, state television reported.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to master the civil nuclear fuel cycle as a cover for a military programme to obtain atomic weapons — a charge vehemently denied by Tehran.
The assessment says Iran has created a complex network of middlemen and front companies to obtain the training, expertise and equipment required to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons arsenals.
“In addition to sensitive goods, Iran continues intensively to seek the technology and know-how for military applications of all kinds,” it adds, according to the newspaper.
The Guardian said: “It emphasises that west European engineering firms, germ laboratories, scientific think-tanks and university campuses are successfully preyed on by multitudes of middlemen, front companies, scholars with hidden agendas and bureaucrats working for the Iranian, Syrian or Pakistani regimes.”
It said the report came from a leading European Union intelligence service and seemingly represents the pooled knowledge of at least four major EU member states.
It details “how countries such as Iran, Syria and North Korea operate a vast network of traders, phoney companies, state institutions and diplomatic missions internationally to procure the means to develop chemical, biological, nuclear and conventional weapons.”
Former Soviet states are targeted for their experts while western Europe is the principal place for purchases, the newspaper said.
The assessment said Pakistan had been buying far more components and materials than were needed for spare parts in its nuclear programme.
Iran, Syria and Pakistan are benefiting from North Korea’s military strength and exports, the document reportedly asserts, noting that “the export of arms equipment is currently reckoned to be North Korea’s most important source of income.”
Iran is set to have new talks about its nuclear activities with EU negotiators on January 18 but both sides have acknowledged that wide differences remain.