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Iran Seeks Missile Components in Norway, Official Says

March 2, 2011


Norway yesterday said it had thwarted a number of attempts by Iran to obtain from small domestic firms components suited for incorporation in nuclear-armed missiles, Reuters reported (see GSN, Feb. 10).

(Mar. 1) – Iran‘s Sajjil 2 missile lifts off in a 2009 test. The Middle Eastern nation has unsuccessfully sought potential missile components from Norway on several recent occasions, a top Norwegian security official said yesterday (Vahi Reza Alaee/Getty Images).

Entities targeted by Iran deal in “special components that can … be used in weapons of mass destruction, for building missiles,” Norwegian Police Security Service General Director Janne Kristiansen said. The United States and several European powers suspect Iran’s nuclear program is geared toward weapons development, a contention consistently denied by Tehran (see related GSN story, today).

Iran has focused in the past 12 months on acquiring Norwegian-origin equipment with civilian as well as weapon applications, the official said, citing Kongsberg Defense Systems as one producer of such technology.

“There are many (companies in Norway) that supply missile technology,” Kristiansen said. “I am not pointing the finger at one company.”

Kongsberg Defense Systems stressed it deals with hundreds of organizations.

“We are a large state-owned company that always follows a strict export regime in our dealing with other nations,” spokesman Ronny Lie said. “I would assume Iran knows that. So that’s why if they do make approaches it would probably be to small companies.”

The company “has been aware of the general problem for a long time,” Lie added.

Purported Iranian business entities have exhibited “very pushy behavior,” the Norwegian Police Security Service said in a report made public yesterday. After seeking information on benign goods, the Iranian entities would begin expressing interest in weapon-usable equipment “and often make various proposals for transport and financing to circumvent Norwegian export regulations,” the analysis says. The document neither identifies firms involved nor includes Kristiansen’s assertion that sensitive gear sought by Iranian organizations had missile applications specifically.

Authorities possessed no evidence that Norwegian companies had intended to breach trade regulations or U.N. nuclear penalties against Iran, precluding punitive action against any of the firms.

Still, Kristiansen said “some [firms] do” purposely sidestep trade rules. “These companies have as a rule had good knowledge of potential loopholes and weaknesses in Norwegian export regulations and control mechanisms,” she said.

“We have also seen how small companies with falling revenues and liquidity problems can become potential targets for procurement actors. Such firms are in a vulnerable position and will potentially have a hard time saying no to lucrative contract offers,” she said.

The U.S. Embassy in Norway refused to address whether Washington had helped shed light on Iranian outreach to the Norwegian dealers.

“We have known for some time that Iran has been pursuing high technology around the world and we are naturally concerned, and that’s why we work closely with Norway and our other European partners,” spokesman Timothy Moore said (Walter Gibbs, Reuters, Feb. 28).

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