The United States has warned Russia of new sanctions if
it continues with plans to provide new advanced weapons systems to Iran.
The warning came as Russia resumed negotiations with Iran for
the sale of weapons platforms. Russian officials said they want
to complete a new weapons deal within months, Middle East Newsline reported.
U.S. officials said Iran has intensified contacts with Russia and other
republics of the former Soviet Union in an effort to complete its nuclear
weapons programs. Last year, Washington reported two Iranian nuclear
facilities that have not been inspected by the International Atomic Energy
One of the former Soviet republics helping Iran is Georgia. Officials
said that country has acknowledged that its scientists are helping Iran's
missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he told the United States
that engineers and scientists from state-owned facilities have resettled in
Teheran to work on private military contracts for the Iranian government. He
said the engineers came from the Sukhumi Institute for Physics and
Technology and the Tbilisi aircraft plant.
Shevardnadze said personnel from Sukhumi are working on Iranian nuclear
projects while those from Tbilisi are helping upgrade SU-25 ground-attack
aircraft procured from Georgia in the early 1990s. In 1993, up to two
kilograms of weapons-grade uranium was stolen from Sukhumi after the
facility was seized by Abkhazian separatist forces.
Georgia had used Sukhumi to develop centrifuge faciliti
U.S. officials said the Bush administration is monitoring
Iranian-Russian contacts. They said Washington's concern is that Moscow
plans to expand its nuclear programs in Iran.
"Our concerns about nuclear cooperation with Iran, as well as the sale
of advanced weaponry to Iran," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
said on Friday. "We believe Iran uses Bushehr as a cover and a pretext for
obtaining sensitive technologies to advance its nuclear weapons program,"
es for the
enrichment of uranium.