U.S. warns Russia of sanctions if Iran assistance continues

Thursday, February 6, 2003

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 Agency.

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," Boucher said.

es for the enrichment of uranium.

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