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August 5, 2006
Iran Tried To Get Uranium From Tanzania

The London Times reports that the Iranians bought uranium from Tanzania and attempted to smuggle it into the country, disguised as another non-radioactive commodity. However, as a UN report indicates, Tanzanian customs officials discovered the ruse and stopped the transport:

IRAN is seeking to import large consignments of bomb-making uranium from the African mining area that produced the Hiroshima bomb, an investigation has revealed.

A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was “no doubt” that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo.

Tanzanian customs officials told The Sunday Times it was destined for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and was stopped on October 22 last year during a routine check.

The disclosure will heighten western fears about the extent of Iran’s presumed nuclear weapons programme and the strategic implications of Iran’s continuing support for Hezbollah during the war with Israel.

The Iranians disguised the uranium as coltan, a component of computer chips and a legal commodity for trade. Tanzania, however, scans cargo with Geiger counters, mindful of the uranium mining in its country and the potential for illegal trade. When the counters started clicking, the customs officials started pulling the containers off the ship. Each drum contained over 100 pounds of ore, and several had uranium rather than coltan.

If this sounds familiar, it should. This scenario was exactly what the Brits determined might be the aim of Saddam Hussein, that time in Niger. As in Tanzania, the uranium mines had been shut down -- but in both nations, illegal mining had been known to occur. Hussein tried to get Niger's government to clandestinely arrange for trade in the one commodity they could not openly sell, but the Nigerien PM refused. Iran went behind the backs of Tanzanian officials and dealt directly with the illegal mining operations to get their nuclear material.

Prairie Pundit suggests sending Joe Wilson to Dar es Salaam for a few more mint juleps, but unfortunately for Wilson, the cat is already out of the bag this time -- and the UN has documented the attempt. Intriguingly, this happened in October 2005, almost a year ago, and Tanzanian officials were asked to keep quiet about it. Americans helped dispose of the material. In its way, it appears to be a reverse Wilson -- no one revealed the attempt until well after Iran announced its success at uranium enrichment.

So have they bought more elsewhere? And would the UN tell us if they did?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 5, 2006 10:24 PM

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» Iran Buys Uranium From Africa from Occidentality
Iran is trying to purchase large amounts of urnaium from Africa: A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was "no doubt" that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the L... [Read More]

Tracked on August 6, 2006 2:37 AM

» More on Iran and African uranium from Bachmann v. Wetterling
I did some sleuthing, and I believe the aforementioned UN report can be found here. What's interesting is the report references other shipments of uranium confiscated in Tanzania. [Read More]

Tracked on August 7, 2006 6:33 PM


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