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World - Middle East

CIA: Iran aggressively seeks weapons of mass destruction


Islamic country calls report a cover-up for Israel

February 3, 2000
Web posted at: 11:08 p.m. EST (0408 GMT)

From staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran is moving aggressively to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons technologies and long-range missile systems to deliver them to targets, according to a new CIA report -- a charge that Iran vehemently denies.

The unclassified CIA report says "Iran remains one of the most active countries seeking to acquire WMD (weapons of mass destruction)."

In the first half of 1999, Tehran sought dual-use biotechnical equipment that could be used to make biological weapons, precursor chemical agents and nuclear-related material, the report said.

It said the main suppliers of dual-use or weapons technologies are in Russia, China and North Korea, though Iranian officials have also sought some technologies that could have dual uses in Western Europe.

CIA Director George Tenet testified before Congress on Wednesday that "most analysts believe that Iran, following the North Korean pattern, could test an ICBM capable of delivering a light payload to the United States in the next few years."

Iran denied Thursday that it sought to develop missiles capable of reaching the United States, saying the CIA was accusing the Islamic republic to cover up Israel's weapons program.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said Tenet's allegations were intended "to divert public attention away from the Zionist threats," the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

Iran says its missile program is to deter other countries and has often called for international inspections of the weapons program of arch-foe Israel.

The report, which also includes the efforts of Iraq, North Korea and others to obtain weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional munitions, is required by Congress to be made every six months.

CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor and Reuters contributed to this report.

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