Iran admits buying illicit nuclear parts


Iran admitted today it bought nuclear components on a shady black market amid mounting concern that the Islamic Republic may still be concealing sensitive nuclear research.

Disclosures by Mr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, have in recent weeks lifted the lid on the global trade in nuclear technology that could be used to make atomic bombs.

Mr Khan has admitted to leaking nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Unlike the other two countries, Iran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

 "We have bought some things from some dealers but we don't know what the source was or what country they came from," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mr Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Mr Asefi insisted Tehran had informed the UN  nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - about the purchases.

Malaysian police said on Friday that  Mr Khan had sold Iran $3 million in centrifuge parts to Iran in the mid-1990s.

Western diplomats in Vienna say Iran has given the IAEA the names of five middlemen and about half a dozen Pakistani scientists who helped Tehran acquire nuclear technology.

Iran admitted late last year to an 18-year cover-up of sensitive nuclear research and signed up to snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.          Iran promised France, Germany and Britain in November it would accept the IAEA's snap inspection regime and suspend enrichment-related activities as a confidence-building gesture.

Although it has stopped enriching uranium, Tehran has continued to manufacture and assemble centrifuges to outfit its massive underground enrichment facility at Natanz.