Russia claims agents foiled Iran nuclear missile plot

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The Independent Online
Russia's domestic intelligence service said yesterday that it had thwarted attempts to give Iran the wherewithal to make nuclear missiles but an Israeli official said the technology was still getting through.

Israeli intelligence sources have been quoted as saying Russia and China are helping Iran to design its own ballistic nuclear missiles. Washington and Israel have expressed their concern about the reports, which the Kremlin has dismissed.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted a senior Federal Security Service official as saying the FSB "had detected separate cases of cooperation with Iran as a result of which Russian deliveries could have conflicted with international treaties on missile technology transfers. But they were all revealed and prevented."

The FSB is one of the successor organisations of the Soviet-era KGB. The official said that earlier this year the FSB prevented one attempt by Iranians to make parts of liquid-fuel missile engines at a Russian plant, passing them off as gas pumping equipment.

Last week, President Boris Yeltsin denied Russia was supplying nuclear or ballistic missile technology to Tehran, saying: "There is nothing further from the truth."

But the Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said every stage in the transfer of missile technology to Tehran had been authorised by Moscow.

Asked how much of the assistance was officially approved, he said: "All of it. The Russians know about all of it despite their repeated denials, and they are very good at denying".

The official said continued Russian assistance would allow Iran to complete development within one to two years of a long-range missile capable of targeting Israel.