Iran tries to buy nuclear equipment from France

28th August 2003

Iran tried to buy nuclear equipment that can be used for both civilian or military purposes from several countries including France, according to an official French report.

The report says Iran's shopping list included equipment used to reprocess plutonium, a substance which is used to build atomic weapons.

"The list of Iranian purchasing attempts in the French nuclear industry and dual goods manufacturers clearly points to the development of large capacities in terms of reprocessing and spent fuel manipulation".

The French government presented the report at a meeting in South Korea in May of the Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG), a group of 40 countries that seeks to curb nuclear weapons proliferation.

Iran insists that its controversial nuclear programme is strictly for civilian purposes but has been accused by the US of using it as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a report circulated to its board of governors Tuesday that it was concerned about several aspects of Iran's atomic programme.

The French report said Tehran tried to buy 10 high-density radiation shielding windows from a French manufacturer in late 2000.

In 2002 an Iranian company based in the United Arab Emirates tried to buy 28 remote manipulators, half of which had the capacity to produce material with radioactive levels "above the NSG threshold", from another French supplier.

These could notably be used to reprocess and manipulate plutonium, the report said.

It added that Iran also tried to purchase documents in France on generators and tubes for flash radiography used in nuclear testing.

A diplomat said yesterday that it was known Iran has for some time been trying clandestinely to buy nuclear equipment abroad.

The NSG, whose members include France, Britain, the US, Russia and Germany, was founded in 1974 with the aim of preventing the export of technology that can be used to develop nuclear arms. – Sapa-AFP.