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U.S. Worried by Potential Chinese CW Tech Sales to Iran

April 22, 2011


A leaked diplomatic cable indicates that the U.S. State Department believed in 2009 that a Chinese firm was providing Iran with equipment that could be used in producing chemical weapons agents, Haaretz reported on Thursday (see GSN, Feb. 3).

“We have new information indicating that Zibo Chemet transferred technology for the production of glass-lined reactor equipment to Iranian customers, significantly enhancing Iran’s ability to produce indigenously chemical equipment suitable for a chemical warfare program,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in a message to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

The Obama administration’s top diplomat requested that the embassy inform the Chinese government of the situation and press Beijing to put an end to the exports, according to the July 24, 2009, dispatch obtained by the transparency group WikiLeaks.

Zibo Chemet is suspected of providing sensitive technology to Iran, North Korea and Syria, and was sanctioned by Washington in 2007, according to the cable. Beijing subsequently took unspecified “limited punitive action” against the firm, it states.

Nonetheless, Zibo Chemet “recently transferred Australia Group-controlled technology to manufacture glass-lined chemical reactor vessels to the Iranian entity Shimi Azarjaam. This glass-lining plant is located in Shokoohieh Industrial Park, Qum,” Clinton stated.

Such reactor vessels are produced to withstand chemicals they hold, which can include precursors for nerve agents, according to Haaretz.

China is not a member of the Australia Group, a multinational organization that seeks to prevent exports of materials intended for use in biological or chemical weapons programs.

The United States and other nations have accused Tehran of developing chemical-warfare capabilities. Iran, whose troops and citizens were subjected to chemical weapons attacks during the nation’s 1980s war with Iraq, denies operating such a program (Yossi Melman, Haaretz, April 21).

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