Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Guardian: Secret services say Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear missile

Alarming news from The Guardian :

The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes.

Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes.

The 55-page intelligence assessment, dated July 1 2005, draws upon material gathered by British, French, German and Belgian agencies, and has been used to brief European government ministers and to warn leading industrialists of the need for vigilance when exporting equipment or expertise to so-called rogue states.

The assessment declares that Iran has developed an extensive web of front companies, official bodies, academic institutes and middlemen dedicated to obtaining - in western Europe and in the former Soviet Union - the expertise, training, and equipment for nuclear programmes, missile development, and biological and chemical weapons arsenals.

The document lists scores of Iranian companies and institutions involved in the arms race. It also details Tehran's growing determination to perfect a ballistic missile capable of delivering warheads far beyond its borders.

It notes that Iran harbours ambitions of developing a space programme, but is currently concentrating on upgrading and extending the range of its Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of 750 miles - capable of reaching Israel.

Iranian scientists are said to be building wind tunnels to assist in missile design, developing navigation technology, and acquiring metering and calibration technology, motion simulators and x-ray machines designed to examine rocket parts. The next generation of the Shahab ("shooting star" in Persian) should be capable of reaching Austria and Italy.