#9 - JRL 7224
The Guardian (UK)
June 16, 2003
Nick Paton Walsh, Moscow
Russia is training hundreds of Iranian technicians and scientists in complex nuclear processes at institutes across the country, causing US officials to express concern that the knowledge will help Iran's ambitious nuclear weapons programme.
Up to 200 Iranians have been trained at the prestigious Atomic Energy University at Obninsk, just outside Moscow, as part of a two-year programme. Other Iranian specialists are being trained at state-backed institutes elsewhere in the country.
University officials said the Obninsk programme taught the Iranian students basic skills required to help run the nuclear reactor the Russian atomic energy ministry (Minatom) is building - to volleys of bitter protest from Washington - in the southern port of Bushehr. Yet the scale of the knowledge transfer, has led some US officials and experts to raise fears that more sensitive, possibly military, information may be gleaned by the Iranians.
But many experts argue that the knowledge of how to make a nuclear weapon is harder to come by than the raw materials. A US embassy official said: "We believe the Iranian civilian programme is really a cover for a larger nuclear weapons programme."
The revelations will add to the acrimony between Washington and Moscow over Russian assistance to Iran's ambitious nuclear programme. But Nikolai Shingaryev, spokesman for Minatom, said there were strict controls over dual-purpose nuclear equipment.