Iran General NewsArrests reported in Ukraine for arms sales to Iran,...

Arrests reported in Ukraine for arms sales to Iran, China

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AP: A government investigation into lucrative illicit weapons sales by officials loyal to former President Leonid Kuchma has led to secret indictments or arrests of at least six arms dealers accused of selling nuclear-capable missiles to Iran and China, a high-ranking intelligence official said Friday. The deals,
which violate international non-proliferation treaties, put pressure on Ukraine’s new president to halt the country’s … Associated Press

By Aleksandar Vasovic

KIEV, Ukraine – A government investigation into lucrative illicit weapons sales by officials loyal to former President Leonid Kuchma has led to secret indictments or arrests of at least six arms dealers accused of selling nuclear-capable missiles to Iran and China, a high-ranking intelligence official said Friday.

The deals, which violate international non-proliferation treaties, put pressure on Ukraine’s new president to halt the country’s well-established illegal arms trade as he tries to boosts ties with and join NATO and the European Union.

President Viktor Yushchenko has promised to investigate illicit weapons dealing, including a U.S. allegation that Kuchma approved the sale of a sophisticated Kolchuga radar system to Iraq despite United Nations sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime. Kuchma has denied the allegations.

Ukraine’s intelligence agency, the State Security Service, launched its investigation of the Iran and China cases on Feb. 14, 2004, during Kuchma’s presidency. The probe was divulged this week when lawmaker Hrihoriy Omelchenko, a reserve colonel in the intelligence service, wrote Yushchenko asking him to pursue a full investigation. Omelchenko made his letter available to The Associated Press.

Six missiles purportedly went to Iran and another six allegedly to China, although export documents known as end-user certificates recorded the final recipient of some 20 Kh-55 missiles as “Russia’s Defense Ministry,” according to Omelchenko’s letter. He didn’t say what happened to the eight other missiles.

The missiles allegedly sold to Iran were unarmed but are designed to carry 200-kiloton nuclear warheads. Western nations have accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, an allegation Tehran denies. China is a declared nuclear weapons state.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko and Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Vyacheslav Sedov said that Ukraine had not informed Russia of the allegations and that Moscow would await Ukraine’s investigation. Russia’s state arms export company, Rosoboronexport, declined to comment.

At least three people were arrested and another three were indicted last year in connection with the illicit arms trade, according to the intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Omelchenko’s letter mentioned some by name, the official said.

Separately, Ukraine’s parliament unanimously confirmed Yulia Tymoshenko as the nation’s new prime minister Friday and gave the firebrand of the country’s “Orange Revolution” protests the go-ahead to set the ex-Soviet republic on a westward course.

In a 373-0 vote, Tymoshenko won confirmation and support for her government’s program aimed at fighting poverty, tackling corruption and preparing Ukraine for European Union membership.

“We have passed through a long election path,” said Tymoshenko, whose provocative statements have won her many supporters and enemies. “We have awakened the hopes of people that the government can work and provide results. … I want to thank the president, the parliament and the people for honoring me with the task.”

After she was confirmed, she walked over and hugged her ally Yushchenko.

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