Daily Telegraph: China has betrayed one its closest allies by providing the United Nations with intelligence on Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear technology, diplomats have revealed. The Daily Telegraph
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
China has betrayed one its closest allies by providing the United Nations with intelligence on Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear technology, diplomats have revealed.
Concern over Tehran’s secretive research programme has increased in recent weeks after officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, discovered that Iran had obtained information on how to manufacture nuclear-armed weapons.
Beijing is believed to have decided to assist the inspectors after documents seized from Iranian officials included blueprints for “shaping” uranium metal into warheads, the testing of high explosives used to detonate radioactive material and the procurement of dual-use technology.
Much of the new material was presented to the governors of the Vienna-based IAEA in February. That meeting is said to have triggered China’s change of heart.
Diplomats described Beijing’s decision to provide material related to Iran to the IAEA as a potentially significant breakthrough.
Chinese designs for centrifuges that refine uranium into a “weaponised” state have been found in Iran but these are thought to have come through a network controlled by the disgraced Pakistani scientist AQ Khan.
John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, said suspicions over the leakage of technology from China to Iran had long centred on uranium enrichment technology and their bilateral ballistic missile trade.
A spokesman for the IAEA said it did not comment on intelligence it received from its members.
Beijing has long-established ties with Iran’s clerical regime and has emerged as one of the country’s biggest customers for oil and gas.
It has allied itself with Tehran’s attempts to prevent the IAEA referring Iran to the UN Security Council, which can impose sanctions.
China has not used its veto powers to block US and British sponsored sanctions but it has ensured the measures were watered down.
The council has levied three rounds of financial sanctions on Iran in an attempt to force the country to declare all its nuclear activities.
IAEA weapons inspectors report that Iran has not provided full co-operation.
An American intelligence assessment judged it likely that Iran stopped efforts to produce a nuclear weapon in 2003 but there are strong fears it has resumed the work under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, said this week that he believed that Iran is still developing a nuclear bomb.
Meanwhile, Israel has accused Iran of setting up listening stations in Syria to eavesdrop on its military communications network.