LONDON (May. 11)
The United States and Russia are heading for a showdown over reports that Moscow is about to sell nuclear weapons technology.
Concern about the technology transfer, which would violate a 1995 U.S.-Russia agreement, were heightened by a planned visit to Moscow this week by an Iranian delegation to discuss “nuclear cooperation.”
Diplomatic sources quoted by the Sunday Times in London said President Clinton would raise the issue with Russian President Boris Yeltsin when they meet during the Group of 8 conference of industrialized nations, which was slated to begin Tuesday in Birmingham, England.
Russia has conceded that it sold nuclear technology to Iran, but only for civilian use.
The Iranian delegation to Russia, which was being led by the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, planned to meet with officials at Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry and at a nuclear research center in Moscow.
A former aide to Yeltsin, Aleksei Yablokov said he found it “a little bizarre that a country with the oil resources of Iran should be interested in developing atomic energy. It’s pretty obvious that the end aim is to manufacture nuclear weapons.”
In his 1995 agreement, Yeltsin told Clinton he would veto the sale of nuclear technology with dual-use capability, but there is widespread concern that he is about to renege on that agreement.
The anticipated Clinton-Yeltsin meeting follows talks between Clinton’s national security adviser, Sandy Berger, and Russian officials over threats posed by Moscow’s nuclear program and the proliferation of biological weapons.
An even more virulent strain of the lethal Ebola disease, which ravaged the Congo, reportedly has been developed in Russian laboratories, and Clinton is said to be alarmed at the prospect of such biological agents finding their way into the hands of terrorist groups.