Iran Buying Nuclear Warheads from Kazakhstan, Says Opposition Group
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Iran has made a deal with the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan to buy four nuclear warheads, the leading Iranian opposition group said Monday.
Mohammed Mohaddesin, director of international relations for the People’s Mujahedeen, said Mujahedeen agents inside Iran obtained information about the deal. The warheads have been paid for but not delivered, he said.
In Sunday’s U.S. presidential debate, independent Ross Perot touched on the widespread fears of nuclear weapons proliferation from the former Soviet Union.
″Russia and its republics are out of control. ... You’ve got every rich Middle Eastern country over there trying to buy nuclear weapons, as you well know. And that will lead to another five-star migraine headache down the road,″ Perot said.
Answering Perot, President Bush mentioned his pact with Russian President Boris Yeltsin to do away with most intercontinental missiles. ″We made dramatic progress,″ he said.
The Mujahedeen report comes a month after Kazakhstan’s prime minister, Sergei Tereschenko, pledged on a visit to Israel that his country would sell none of the nuclear weapons it inherited with the breakup of the Soviet Union.
″Nuclear weapons will not be sold, not to Iran or any other country. Kazakhstan is peaceloving,″ Tereschenko told Israeli President Chjaim Herzog and repeated the statement for Israeli Radio on Sept. 7.
Kazakhstan, the largest of the newly independent Muslim republics of Central Asia, is one of four former states with nuclear weapons the Soviet Union left on its soil.
Mohaddesin said in a statement, ″In attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, the mullahs pursue no objective but to export their religious fundamentalism.″
He said the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defense minister, Akbar Torkan, visited Kazakhstan in July to finalize the deal.
In a column Monday in the Washington Post, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak said the Mujahedeen report ″matches U.S. intelligence reports received several weeks ago.″
The columnists quoted Bush administration officials as saying the deal might have been concluded by out-of-control Russian military elements.
The State Department was closed for the Columbus Day holiday. But one official, who requested anonymity, said from home that a claim similar to the Mujahedeen’s had been made earlier this year and U.S. officials had not confirmed it. The official would not comment on the current report.
The official said the United States opposes any nuclear purchase by Iran because ″we just don’t trust their intentions.″
Another official cautioned that the Mujahedeen has a stake in any report that makes the fundamentalist Muslim leaders of Iran look bad.
However, the opposition group, which is based in Iraq and maintains a substantial lobbying office in Washington, has provided accurate information on Iranian nuclear activities in the past.
Iran last month announced the purchase of a nuclear reactor from China. Announcing the deal, Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said his country, which is a signatory to the international treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons, would submit the reactor to international safeguards.
The State Department protested the sale as ″highly imprudent″ and said it ″would inevitably result in an enhancement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.″
Russia has recently proceeded, despite U.S. opposition, with sales to Iran of two nuclear reactors and three submarines. Opposing the sales, acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said Iran ″has a certain relationship to terrorism that we consider to be anathema.″