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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Iran using Chinese companies as fronts to buy nuclear equipment in the US

Tuesday's indictment in New York of a Chinese company on charges of attempting to procure nuclear equipment for Iran is apparently just the tip of the iceberg, according to a German industrialist who spoke to a conference by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington on Tuesday.
Ralf Wirtz, whose company, Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, makes pumps that can be used in uranium enrichment centrifuges, said that more than five years after the AQ Khan nuclear smuggling network was exposed by US and British intelligence the black market trade was on the rise again.

"In the last six months I have seen a considerable increase of procurement attempts which - as we are told by government authorities - are for a nuclear programme," Wirtz told the world's leading nuclear experts gathered yesterday at a Washington conference organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He said Iran was seeking to buy equipment for its nuclear programme using increasingly sophisticated methods. Instead of using trading companies as fronts, Wirtz said Iran had recently placed orders for sensitive equipment through engineering companies that have legitimate uses for it. He gave the example of a recent attempt to buy his company's pumps through a Chinese engineering firm.

"European government authorities were notified, one of which learned from the Chinese government that the pumps did indeed go to Iran," Wirtz said. "Although they did not learn the exact end user, they believed Iran's centrifuge programme was the likely customer."

He said the Iranian use of Chinese companies was a growing trend.
But the Iranians aren't just purchasing nuclear equipment in Europe. They're also trying to buy equipment in the US and often aren't being reported when companies are suspicious.
Wirtz likened the nuclear smuggling network to a chain store. "If you close a few stores, if you shut down some affiliates, the remaining ones continue to operate. Even if you close the corporate headquarters, the shops may be able to survive."

He said other companies making dual-use equipment were also receiving a growing number of suspect purchase requests, but in many cases, particularly in the US, those companies were not passing the information on to the authorities for fear of investigation and possible prosecution.

"Whenever I mention suspicious inquiries, there is consent from my colleagues that they also do have such requests for quotation, and that they just file them or put them into the trash bin," he said. "Frankly I would also keep my big mouth shut if all I got in return for my good citizenship is problems with national authorities, while criminals like [the AQ Khan network] walk away as free men after a while."
But I'm so glad that President Obama considers Israel a friend.


At 8:11 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

We're so glad Iran will stop its jihad if the other cheek is turned! Yeah, right.


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