Iran Nuclear NewsOfficial: Ukraine sold missiles to Iran

Official: Ukraine sold missiles to Iran

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AP: A senior Ukrainian legislator alleges the country sold nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in violation of international non-proliferation treaties and is demanding the new government launch a full investigation. The allegations were made in a letter — made available to The Associated Press on Tuesday — by legislator Hrihory Omelchenko and addressed to President Viktor Yushchenko, who took office last week. Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — A senior Ukrainian legislator alleges the country sold nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in violation of international non-proliferation treaties and is demanding the new government launch a full investigation.

The allegations were made in a letter — made available to The Associated Press on Tuesday — by legislator Hrihory Omelchenko and addressed to President Viktor Yushchenko, who took office last week.

Yushchenko, who took over from Leonid Kuchma, has promised a thorough investigation of corruption and misdeeds that allegedly flourished during his predecessor’s 10 years as president. Kuchma allegedly sanctioned the sale of sophisticated radar systems to Iraq in 2002, contravening UN sanctions.

In the letter, Omelchenko said an investigation launched last summer “proved that some 20 air-launched Kh-55 and Kh-55M cruise missiles with nuclear capability were exported to third countries” in contravention of international treaties.

“Six missiles destined for Russia ended up in Iran…six missiles destined for Russia ended up in China,” the letter said.

It said the exports occurred during 1999 to 2001.

Omelchenko is an ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been nominated as Ukraine’s next prime minister.

Vyacheslav Astapov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said the office began an investigation into the alleged sales last summer and “this year we received new information.”

Astapov also said a top-ranking Iranian diplomat in Ukraine met with Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun but he did not elaborate.

Iranian diplomats in Kyiv were not available for comment.

Omelchenko also claimed businessmen from several enterprises — including state-run weapons exporter Ukrspetseksport and its daughter companies — companies in the United States, Cyprus and Iran and individuals from the Ukrainian security service shared hefty profits from several illicit defence deals that included sales of radar equipment to Eritrea.

Officials from the Ukrspetseksport and the Ukrainian Security Service were unavailable for comment.

U.S. diplomats in Kyiv were “aware of the reports” on illicit missile sales and took them “very seriously,” a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

“Non-proliferation remains a key pillar in the global war on terror in which Ukraine is a close partner,” the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The Kh-55, known in the West as the AS-15, has a range of 3,000 kilometres and is designed to carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead. It is designed for use on Russian-made Tupolev long-range bombers.

Iran’s air force does not operate such planes but some military analysts have suggested its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft could be adapted to use the Kh-55.

China operates about 120 H-6 medium-range bombers.

In the early 1990s, Ukraine renounced the nuclear armaments it inherited in the breakup of the Soviet Union and said it shipped all of its nuclear warheads to Russia for decommissioning under U.S. control. The country remains a sizable producer of weapons, including missiles, aircraft and tanks. Exports are largely to other former Soviet republics, Asia and Africa.

Last year Ukrainian police arrested four men from Greece, Pakistan and Iraq on suspicion of attempted illegal weapons trade for an unspecified force fighting in Iraq.

Last March, former Ukrainian defence minister Yevhen Marchuk warned several hundred Soviet-built SA-2 surface-to-air missiles are unaccounted for. Defence officials later claimed these missiles from arsenals in former Warsaw Pact member countries had been brought to Ukraine for decommissioning and were lost due to “accounting problems” and “the absence of records.

Valentyn Badrak, director of the independent Centre for Army Conversion and Disarmament Studies, said the Omelchenko allegations could further tarnish Kuchma and his allies.

“The director of the Ukrspetseksport cannot make decisions without consent from the people higher-up — the president, the National Security Council, the Defence Ministry, customs and others,” he said.

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