Iran Nuclear NewsIran 'is seeking N Korea's nuclear expertise'

Iran ‘is seeking N Korea’s nuclear expertise’

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Daily Telegraph: Iran and North Korea have appointed high-level delegations to deepen co-operation between the two countries on nuclear weapons technology, according to diplomatic sources in Beijing. The Daily Telegraph

By Con Coughlin

Iran and North Korea have appointed high-level delegations to deepen co-operation between the two countries on nuclear weapons technology, according to diplomatic sources in Beijing.

The countries are keen to seal a deal before North Korea starts to close its controversial Yongbyon reactor under the terms of an agreement with the United States and regional powers in February.

The Feb 13 accord was negotiated after North Korea conducted a successful test of a nuclear warhead at the end of last year. Following the international outcry that greeted the test, Pyongyang agreed to close the reactor in return for aid.

But the North Koreans missed the weekend’s deadline to start shutting down the reactor, claiming that the United States was refusing to release £15 million of North Korean funds frozen in bank accounts in Macau.

The US state department has demanded that North Korea should “immediately” invite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to begin sealing the facility.

South Korea said yesterday that it was considering delaying rice aid to North Korea because of Pyongyang’s failure to comply with the agreement.

Iran has taken advantage of the delay to intensify attempts to negotiate a deal that would give Teheran access to the nuclear expertise North Korea acquired during last year’s atom bomb test.

Iranian scientists have already been invited to Pyongyang to study data collected from the test. Beijing-based diplomats responsible for monitoring North Korea say that Iran is now keen to negotiate a deal that would deepen the level of nuclear co-operation.

Although, under the terms of the February agreement, North Korea has agreed to shut the Yongbyon reactor – which provided the fissile material for the nuclear test – the agreement puts no limits on North Korea to export the expertise it acquired from the test.

“As the agreement currently stands, there are no restrictions on the proliferation of nuclear technology North Korea acquired last year,” said a well-placed diplomat. “Iran is desperate to take advantage of this loophole to buy Pyongyang’s expertise on building nuclear weapons.”

Despite Teheran’s insistence that its nuclear programme is aimed at meeting the country’s future energy needs, Iran has already admitted to buying the blueprint for Pakistan’s nuclear bomb from Dr A Q Khan, the “father” of that country’s atom bomb. Nuclear experts believe that Iran is now seeking to acquire North Korea’s expertise to assist its own clandestine programme to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal.

The Iranian delegation handling the negotiations with North Korea report directly to Reza Aghazadeh, the country’s vice president and the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, who has overall responsibility for the controversial programme.

Senior officials from Aerospace Industries Organisation of Iran, which is responsible for the development of a ballistic missile programme, have also attended the talks.

Iran’s Shahab-3 missile is based on North Korea’s Nodong ballistic missiles and Teheran is also keen to maintain the existing co-operation between the two countries on the development of long-range missiles.

Meetings between the two delegations have taken place at the Chinese border city of Shenyang, because the Iranians are keen not to draw attention to their increased co-operation with Pyongyang.

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