Iran importing extra-durable steel for nukes exile group    Thu. 28 Jul 2005


Associated Press

PARIS - Iran is violating international agreements by secretly importing an extra-durable steel for use in its nuclear program, an exiled Iranian opposition group alleged Thursday.

Some of the group's past information about
Iran's nuclear program has proved accurate. The Iranian government, which says it has no nuclear weapons program, routinely refuses to respond to its allegations from the opposition group.

Thursday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claimed that front companies for the Iranian regime were smuggling in maraging steel, an alloy that withstands high stress and heat and can be used to build centrifuges for uranium enrichment. It also has applications in regular industry.

"At present, maraging steel is being smuggled to
Iran illegally from other countries," Mohammed Mohaddessin, head of the group's foreign affairs committee, told a news conference in Paris.

The group said it did not know exactly how much of the metal was being brought into
Iran. It alleged that some of it came from Malaysia and was shipped to the United Arab Emirates before reaching Iran.

The Iranian opposition group said research on maraging steel was being conducted at
Malek Ashtar University in Tehran and at other scientific centers and that the country was close to producing it.

The group said it had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, of its findings.

Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Vienna-based agency, said its experts "will review the claims to see if there's anything to them." She declined to elaborate.

Maraging steel is on a list of goods to be subject to export controls because they could be used for nuclear purposes. If
Iran is importing maraging steel, it has a responsibility to disclose it, said Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Should the allegations prove true, Cirincione said, they show that "
Iran is still violating its treaty obligations, and that the nuclear black market is alive and well, still supplying these materials to countries that seek them."

The opposition group said
Iran was also using maraging steel to build nuclear bomb casings. But Cirincione said that using such a tough steel for that purpose was unnecessary.