Reuters: Guyana's opposition leaders said on Wednesday the government may be helping Iran enrich uranium and damaging ties with the United States with a plan to have Iran map the South American country's mineral resources. By Neil Marks
GEORGETOWN, Feb 3 (Reuters) – Guyana's opposition leaders said on Wednesday the government may be helping Iran enrich uranium and damaging ties with the United States with a plan to have Iran map the South American country's mineral resources.
Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, who traveled to Tehran last week, announced the upcoming visit of a team of scientists from Iran, which is facing heavy criticism from the United States and its allies over its nuclear enrichment program.
Iran raised eyebrows last year with offers to help map uranium deposits in Venezuela, where leftist President Hugo Chavez supports Tehran's nuclear program.
"Iran makes no secret of its search for uranium, it is doing the same in Venezuela," says Rafael Trotman, top legislator for the opposition Alliance for Change Party.
"There are known uranium deposits in Guyana and so it doesn't take much speculation to figure out what is going on."
He said this could sour relations with the United States, a major provider of development aid that plans to spend $52 million over the next five years to fight AIDS in Guyana, and is financing other trade, investment and governance programs.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes but Western powers suspect it is seeking to make weapons.
Guyana's Foreign Ministry did not comment on the accusations.
Iran has also agreed to give Guyana $1.5 million to build an institution to train specialist doctors as part of an unrelated cooperation deal.
Trotman said the nuclear mapping accord contrasts with the country's standard practice of requiring investors to secure a prospecting license before mining for minerals including gold and diamonds in the country's vast provinces.
A Canadian company is currently in Guyana exploring for uranium. The company, U308 Corp. (UWE.V), has exclusive uranium exploration rights in an area covering approximately 1.3 million hectares that straddles the edge of the Roraima Basin in Guyana.
Uranium is found naturally in a variety of forms but only a particular adapted form of the mineral — rather than simply the mined ore — can be used for electricity or explosives.
This type, called U-235 to represent its mass, is present in less than 1 percent of mined ore.