News // Oil and gas worldwide
Russia bows to US, won't export lasers to Iran
12 March 2001 , 08:05411
After months of ambivalence, Russian officials have told the US that laser equipment will not be sent to Iran, several sources confirmed to Platts Nucleonics Week. The decision averts a major rupture in the US-Russian nonproliferation relationship.
The US has been pressing Russia for months to scrap the export, but officials from the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) argued the lasers could not be used to support a clandestine uranium enrichment program in Iran, as the US CIA alleged. US officials said the lasers could clearly provide "a basis to scale up" a program to enrich more than just gram quantities of uranium. Highly enriched uranium can be made into a bomb.
The issue lingered despite very high-level discussions, including those between then-president Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. US officials threatened to withdraw support for several commercial and government grant programs Minatom wanted, even as some experts warned that linking important programs that enhance the security of the US with Russia's behavior toward Iran would be a grave error.
While the Bush administration's policy toward Russia is still evolving, key administration officials have not been shy about criticizing Russia for its cooperation with Iran. At a press briefing Feb 16, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Russia's nuclear sales to Iran "will be an important item on the US-Russian agenda of the Bush administration."
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