Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Belarus Seen Aiding Breaches of Iran Sanctions
Western nations believe Belarus has assisted Iran in circumventing U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at halting the growth of the Middle Eastern nation's atomic and ballistic missile activities, Reuters reported on Thursday (see GSN, Sept. 15).
If the belief described by Western envoys proves to be accurate, the former Soviet state would fall among other countries -- including China, North Korea, Russia and Turkey -- thought by Western powers to have aided Iran in breaching the penalties. The United States and its allies suspect the Persian Gulf state's nuclear program is aimed at weapons development; Tehran maintains there is no military motive behind its atomic efforts.
Representatives of a U.N. team of specialists were slated to travel to Belarus in September to address the implementation of a prohibition on atomic and missile exports to Iran. The possible Belarusian role in supporting violations of the sanctions regime is one anticipated topic of the trip, according to envoys. The delegation was scheduled to return this week.
"I think it's good that Belarus knows that it's on our radar," an envoy said. "Hopefully it will think twice about helping Iran break the law."
Belarus has started acting as an intermediary in support of Iranian efforts to obtain sensitive Russian systems, according to diplomatic officials.
"Belarus is becoming a key element in Iran's efforts to develop its SSM (surface-to-surface missile) and nuclear capabilities, especially with regard to navigation and guidance products, which are defined as dual-use," one envoy said.
"Belarus is becoming increasingly important to Iran, due to the drastic reduction in Iran's ability to procure products from countries such as China, Russia and Dubai, which used to be its major sources of such procurement," the official added.
The envoy's comments on Tehran and Minsk -- including an assertion that Iran wants to obtain control components for missiles -- were backed by multiple Western diplomatic officials.
Belarusian entrepreneur Yuri Charniauski rejected intelligence data implicating his firm, TM Services, in a purported effort to obtain systems for Iran from the Russian company Optolink.
"Never," Charniauski said, contending he had no commercial ties to Iran. "I'm not working for this country ever. ... Optolink has this same information."
Optolink General Director Yuri Korkishko said TM Services was seeking to buy from his company an Inertial Measurement Unit; the component, which has missile control applications, is ostensibly intended for the National Technical University in Belarus. Korkishko said Iran and Pakistan had both previously taken notice of goods offered by his firm, but added he knew of no relationship between Charniauski and Tehran.
"We do not (work) with Iran at all," Korkishko added. "Iran, Pakistan -- I am receiving all sorts of requests from them, but we never reply. ... We do not need it" (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Sept. 15).
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. diplomat in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said his country remains dedicated to maintaining stability around the Persian Gulf, Agence France-Presse reported.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who met with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday, "reaffirmed to Saudi leaders the United States' firm and enduring commitment to Gulf security, including our commitment to countering the threat of Iran's nuclear program and Iran's destabilizing activities in the region," says a U.S. Embassy release. "He discussed the United States' and Saudi Arabia's shared interest in ensuring security and stability across the Middle East" (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Sept. 14).
Elsewhere, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on Tuesday voiced worry over the lack of formal communications between Washington and Tehran following the Middle Eastern nation's Islamic revolution.
“Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, U.S. officials could still talk with the Soviets,” the Defense Department quoted Mullen as saying. A direct telephone connection maintained by the one-time nuclear rivals maintained enabled direct exchanges between their top officials in moments of crisis, the Pentagon noted in a statement.
Mullen said Iran is pursuing a nuclear deterrent and seeking dominance over the surrounding area (U.S. Defense Department release, Sept. 15).
Separately, Iran's president and senior nuclear official have issued conflicting statements over Iran's willingness to halt production of higher-enriched uranium if offered such material by the United States, the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington said on Wednesday in an analysis.
Iran in June announced plans to move its manufacturing of 20 percent-enriched uranium to a new site and to boost generation of the material by threefold; the higher enrichment level could help Tehran more quickly produce nuclear-weapon material, which must be refined to around 90 percent (see GSN, June 8).
"If they start to give us that uranium today, we will stop production," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Fereidoun Abbasi, though, has ruled out such an arrangement.
“[Iran] will no longer negotiate a fuel swap and a halt to our production of (nuclear) fuel,” Abbasi said. “The United States is not a safe country with which we can negotiate a fuel swap or any other issue.”
The Washington think tank advised the United States to "pursue the president's offer."
"Any agreement that would cap Iran’s production of 20 percent LEU [low-enriched uranium] would be worth considering. However, it is unclear whether Ahmadinejad is now able to direct nuclear policy making in Iran. He was reportedly in favor of the 2009 fuel swap proposal to send out Iran’s 20 percent LEU for foreign fabrication into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), but after internal debate, Iran ultimately did not respond favorably to the offer," the analysis states (see GSN, Jan. 12).
"Given the past year’s political tensions between Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei, it may be that [Abbas] now speaks the most clearly for the supreme leader. Still, the United States has nothing to lose by following up on the president’s offer. A deal to successfully cap Iran’s 20 percent LEU production is a measure that would instill confidence about Iran’s intentions and a tangible step toward a diplomatic resolution to the crisis," the document adds (Institute for Science and International Security release, Sept. 14).
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